Corral Fire grows to 12,500 acres east of Livermore, driven by “wind tunnel”

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

LIVERMORE, Calif. – The wind-driven Corral Fire hopscotched across I-580 in several spots overnight, keeping firefighters busy holding the flames back from nearby neighborhoods south of Tracy.

The fire had burned more than 12,500 acres as of Sunday morning, after flames erupted east of Livermore and south of Tracy around 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, according to CalFire. The fire briefly jumped I-580, which remains shut down in both directions, at Corral Hollow Road and S. Chrisman Road, but were contained quickly.

Heat and wind created a “wind tunnel” that fueled the flames. A fire of this size is not uncommon, but “what was uncommon is how quickly it got to the 12,000 acres,” said CalFire Batt. Chief Josh Silveira 

“We had an extremely wet couple of years, which allowed the grass to grow in really tall, really thick. We call it a light, flashy fuel because it is so fine. It’s very receptive to the fire,” Silveira said.

High winds with gusts up to 40 miles per hour fueled the fire all weekend, making it difficult for crews to get a handle on it. Heat is expected to make conditions more precarious for firefighters over the next few days. The Cal Fire Battalion chief said the Altamont Pass is known for substantial grass fires, and the weather conditions were ripe for the fire to explode quickly.

“If you couple that with the very strong winds and the topography that we’re in, it basically acts like a giant wind tunnel. And it pushed that fire very, very quickly,” Silveira said.

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Watch for millions in California, including San Joaquin County, beginning on Tuesday.  

Dangerously hot conditions are possible, with temperatures between 95 and 108 degrees and a widespread “major” HeatRisk. Beginning Monday, temperatures could continue to heat up. Tracy is forecast to surpass 100 degrees on Tuesday.

Strong winds also starting Monday will be determinantal to the ongoing firefight. Winds gusting between 20 and 30 mph could fuel more fire growth. 

Multiple fire agencies were responding in a full-court press, using water and about three bulldozers to keep the blaze from spreading. A total of 400 firefighters were attacking the flames, including those from CalFire SCU, Fremont Fire, Hayward Fire, Oakland Fire, Piedmont Fire and Alameda County Fire Departments. Two firefighters have been injured, according to CalFire.

Crews appeared to be holding the line as of 2:30 a.m., according to a KTVU videographer on the scene overnight. Early Sunday morning, the fire was 15% contained. 

Winds were so powerful that KTVU’s reporter and photographer struggled to keep their equipment upright while reporting live along the fire line.

Evacuation orders are in effect for areas west of the California Aqueduct, and south of Corral Hollow Creek. In addition, those people living west in Alameda County and south of the fire in Stanislaus County were also told to leave.

An evacuation center was set up at the Larch Clover Community Center at 11157 W Larch Road in Tracy.

PG&E reported that thousands of customers lost power in Tracy on Saturday due to two outages in the area, but only about 200 were still waiting for power to be restored as of Sunday morning. The cause of the outages is under investigation and the estimated time of restoration unknown, according to PG&E.

Initial reports linked the cause of the fire to a controlled burn in the area, but ACFD tells KTVU that is not the case.  The cause of the fire is still unknown. Investigators are on their way to the scene, according to CalFire.

The fire was first reported not far from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Site 300, which is 15 miles east of the main campus in Livermore. It’s also the site of experimental explosives testing, but a lab spokesperson says there is no threat to the facility from the brush fire. 

“There are no current threats to any laboratory facilities and operations as the fire has moved away from the site. There was no on or offsite contamination. As a precaution, LLNL has activated their emergency operations center to monitor the situation through the weekend. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said in a statement to KTVU on Saturday.


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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.