Fire Marshal Denise Enea of the Woodside Fire Protection District said she plans to talk with the land management department at Stanford University about fire-safety protocols when working in dry grass.
For the second time in about a year, a contractor using equipment in a field of dry grass and brush on Stanford lands near Webb Ranch started a grass fire, this time shortly after noon on Aug. 11, according to fire officials.
The fire burned about half an acre of grass in the 10 to 15 minutes it took for firefighters to get it under control, officials said.
The contractor was thought to be mowing grass, but was actually discing it to create a bare-earth fire break, and in the process ignited a "small fire," Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Ann Lapin said. Asked about the fire last year, Ms. Lapin acknowledged it and said it was "smaller than the one last week." She did not have a date or time of day, nor did Woodside district fire officials.
Both mowers and discers operate with rotating metal blades that can strike rocks and create sparks.
"Mowing in August is considered very late," Ms. Enea said. "If you mow now, late in the season, you have to be very careful." Precautions include having a water supply and/or a fire extinguisher at hand, and doing the work before 11 a.m., she said.
Asked for Stanford's protocols when mowing dry grass in the summer, Ms. Lapin did not have a direct answer. Stanford has "in the past worked with fire agencies ... and has spoken with them about the recent circumstance last week," she said.
"We will welcome any feedback and suggestions that that fire officials have and will follow their direction going forward," she said. "We will make any future modifications that the fire agencies suggest."
Firefighter calls in
The Aug. 11 fire at 2720 Webb Ranch Road came to the notice of Battalion Chief Kevin Butler of the Woodside district as he was driving on Interstate 280, district Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso said.
Firefighters responded quickly to Mr. Butler's call and had the blaze knocked down by 12:30, but remained on the site for three hours, said Safety Officer John Berg of the San Mateo County Fire department. The fire never threatened structures, and there were no injuries, he said.
The incident drew 18 firefighters from the Woodside and Menlo Park districts, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the county firefighting agency, Chief Ghiorso said.
Firefighters returned to the scene at around 6:10 p.m. the same day to douse a spot reported to be smoking, Chief Ghiorso said. There was no danger of re-ignition, he said, because firefighters had created a fire break earlier by clearing the ground around the blackened site of the original fire.