"The structure threat has been mitigated, and they're in mop up today," meaning crews were extinguishing any residual fire to prevent its spread, said Cecile Juliette, public information officer for the San Mateo County Fire Department and Cal Fire CZU, on Wednesday.
Evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday evening, reduced to warnings and then to an evacuation advisory Wednesday morning. Nearly 3,500 customers were without power June 21, which dropped to 1,300 on Wednesday, according to PG&E's outage map, and classes at Stanford University were canceled Wednesday as a result. The fire chief's go-ahead was needed before PG&E could access the nearby substation, with no estimate for when that might occur, according to Cal Fire officials.
Firefighters were hoping to wrap up their efforts by Thursday evening, according to Battalion Chief Bob Simmons, the incident commander.
Four firefighters, including two from Cal Fire, one from the national guard and another from a local city agency, suffered minor injuries and were taken to Stanford hospital. They have all since been released, according to a Cal Fire CZU official.
Juliette said that Wednesday's milder weather, with a maximum temperature of 96 degrees and winds up to 10 mph, were "good conditions" for the firefighting crews. Still, she added, they'll be keeping an eye on afternoon wind patterns, which can shift unexpectedly and dramatically change the course of a fire.
As for Wednesday's plan, she said "the firefighters were told to stock up on water, stay hydrated and work on improving containment lines."
Emergency responders from around the Bay Area have come out to support the local Cal Fire CZU team. As of Wednesday morning, 60 personnel were on-scene, including strike teams from Cal Fire SCU, LNU and Mendocino, as well as hand crews from Marin County Fire, Monterey Bay and Blue Ridge.
Incarcerated firefighters from the Ben Lomond Conservation Camp, including 23 inmates and three fire captains, were also battling the blaze. Ben Lomond is one of more than 35 "fire camps" statewide that provide on-the-ground support to emergency responders. Inmate firefighters earn $2.90 to $5.12 per day on regular assignments and $1 per hour on emergency assignments, according to their website.
Though officials could not comment on the nature of the firefighters' injuries, Juliette said they were working right up next to the fire, battling hot temperatures, steep hills, and heavy gear and equipment.
Tuesday fire forces evacuations
For Emerald Hills residents, Tuesday took a dramatic turn when a heat wave became a full-on fire evacuation. Two fires broke around 2:30 p.m., prompting evacuation orders for areas of Emerald Hills and Woodside.
Among those forced to leave were Jacqui Bellini-Murray, who just last year moved from San Carlos to Emerald Hills with her husband and teenage son. Bellini-Murray, who works remotely for a biotech company, was on a Zoom call around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon when the power suddenly shut off.
"We just thought, 'Oh, it's really hot, no big deal,'" she said. "And then maybe 15 minutes later, my husband ... was sitting in the backyard, and he's like, 'There's smoke. It looks like maybe there's a fire.'"
They watched as smoke plumed and planes swooped down, dumping water and fire retardant over the mountains. Not 45 minutes later, an official from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office knocked on their door and ordered them to evacuate.
"We probably were out of there within 10 minutes," she said.
Like many others from the Emerald Hills neighborhood, Bellini-Murray and her family had found themselves staying in a hotel mere minutes away on the other side of Redwood City.
"We're in a hotel and just kind of camping," she said, laughing in disbelief. "Just a little bit ago, I ordered DoorDash, and the front desk is just slammed ... It's all evacuees, which sounds so weird, right?"
As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the six-alarm Edgewood Fire, which was in a canyon, had spread to 25 acres in a corner of land between Woodside, Redwood City and Edgewood County Park. The fire was moving in a north to northwest direction toward Ca?ada Road and areas in south Woodside and toward the town. Air tankers were dropping both water and significant amounts of fire retardant, and would continue until it fell dark, according to Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District. Officials said they were aggressively attacking the blaze.
Abigail Keyes, who currently resides in Washington state, was spending the weekend with her parents at their home in Emerald Hills. The family stepped out Tuesday early afternoon to mail a package at Woodside Plaza, but when they arrived, the UPS store was without power and redirected them elsewhere. That, plus the rising smoke in the distance, tipped them off.
"We came back to an evacuation warning," Keyes said. She called her partner at home, and while they were on the phone, the warning became an order. Soon after, Redwood City Police officers and county Sheriff's Deputies were going door-to-door.
Interstate Highway 280 remained open but experienced significant smoke during the blaze. The on-ramps at Edgewood Road and Jefferson Avenue were closed on Tuesday.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, PG&E spokesperson Karly Hernandez said in an email Tuesday. The PG&E substation on Ca?ada Road was under threat from the fire and crews were stationed at the site, officials at the press conference said. The fire has caused significant blackouts including parts of Stanford University, Redwood City, Woodside and San Carlos.
Almanac reporter Cameron Rebosio, who was in the Emerald Hills area, said she heard a loud explosion around 2:30 p.m. followed by a power outage. A large cloud of smoke rose over Edgewood Park, and almost immediately, neighborhood residents were running down the street screaming to neighbors to call 911 to report a fire.
Within minutes, 911 dispatchers were answering the phone by asking if callers were requesting help with the Edgewood Fire. Several residents began leaving their homes when large flames were visible near the intersection of Hillcrest Way and Sunset Way, but many stayed behind for several hours to collect personal items and wait for updates from firefighters.
A smaller fire of several acres, the Colton Fire, located at Colton Court to the south, was contained shortly before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
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