It was an unsettling Labor Day night for locals when 15 small roadside fires started Monday night in and around Healdsburg between the hours of 8 and 9:30 p.m.
Most of the incidents were small spot fires with slow rates of spread. The largest one off of Healdsburg Avenue on the Montage/Saggio Hills property near city limits was nearly two acres.
Collectively, the fires burned approximately six acres.
While there were multiple suspicious fire starts all within an hour or so of each other, the cause of the fires is still under investigation. CalFire Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit Division Chief Ben Nicholls couldn’t confirm or deny if arson was the cause.
The first fire was reported around 8 p.m. last night, Sept. 6, near the Bailhache Avenue area.
“We subsequently responded to fires throughout the Healdsburg area. There were multiple fires and all fires were contained by about 10 p.m. last night,” Nicholls said Tuesday morning. “We’re collecting data this morning but the largest one was just shy of two acres.”
Scanner reports indicated that the Bailhache Avenue fire was a 5x5 spot fire around a tree extinguished by locals.
Following the Bailhache incident, a tiny spot fire ignited around the 9600 block of Lytton Springs Road followed by the Healdsburg Avenue two-acre blaze, followed by a one-acre fire at Chiquita Road and Maybee Lane.
Around 9 and 9:30 p.m. there were reports of a handful of fires around the 2000 block of Mill Creek Road, an area that was hit hard last year during the Walbridge Fire.
At 9:46 p.m. the Healdsburg Police Department made a statement on their Facebook page stating that the city was closely monitoring the situation and that there were no evacuations ordered for the city of Healdsburg.
They advised people to follow Nixle and to look up their evacuation zone to be prepared in case conditions changed, although Nicholls said of the fires, “There wasn’t any extreme fire activity last night.”
Nicholls said most of the fires were extinguished with a hose line from responding units.
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, announced on his social media page at 10:29 p.m. last night that fire crews were able to stop all forward progress on the fires.
“Fire engines, bulldozers and personnel have staged in the Healdsburg area to perform a quick attack on each of the blazes. Be on the look-out for suspicious activity and report it immediately to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office,” McGuire wrote.
According to Nicholls, resources involved in the blazes included CalFire, Healdsburg Fire, Cloverdale Fire District, Northern Sonoma County Fire District, Sonoma County Fire District, Dry Creek Rancheria and a water tender from the city of Santa Rosa.
At the peak of fire activity, there was around 80 fire personnel assigned to the fires, including 20 engines, 6 water tenders and 3 bulldozers.
Henry 1 with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office also responded and entered the air early on.
“The sheriff was there for the expanding incident. With the amount of fires that we had, we wanted to make sure that if anything started to not get caught in the initial attack that we had resources there to effect evacuations, but no evacuations were needed,” Nicholls said.
CalFire is leading the investigation into most of the fires.
When asked of Nicholls how long the investigation could take, he said it depends on the complexity of each case.
Healdsburg Division Chief Fire Marshal Linda Collister said the Healdsburg Fire Department is investigating the Healdsburg Avenue fire since it was in their jurisdiction.
With the investigation under way, Collister was on the scene of the incident Tuesday morning at Healdsburg Avenue near the Alexander Valley Road turnoff surveying the area.