Woodside: Falling tree led to grass fire near Interstate 280


A eucalyptus tree fell on a vehicle traveling along Canada Road in Woodside at about 3:30 p.m. on Thursday (July 24) and caused a grass fire that interrupted electrical power to the area and snarled traffic on Interstate 280.

As the tree fell, it brought down a 60,000-volt power line that ignited vegetation along the eastern side of I-280 in the right of way between the freeway and Canada Road at Godetia Drive, firefighters said.

The initial investigation had not made clear whether the tree fell on its own or fell after being struck by the vehicle.

Everyone escaped injury, including the people in the vehicle, Battalion Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District told the Almanac. The vehicle was towed from the scene, but the damage seemed limited to scratches and the vehicle appeared drivable, he said.

Sparks from the downed power line lit vegetation on both sides of Canada Road, but the smaller fire on the east side of the road was quickly extinguished, Mr. Lindner said. Crews from Pacific Gas & Electric were on the scene early, but complications involving a need to "ground the line" meant that power could not immediately be shut off, Mr. Lindner said.

The one-alarm fire was contained within the first hour and under control by about 8 p.m., Mr. Lindner said. Firefighters were on the scene until about 11 p.m., he said.

Participating were firefighters from the Woodside district, the Redwood City Fire Department and the San Mateo County Fire Department as well as a wildland-response team from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Cal Fire group included five engine companies, two airplanes and a helicopter, with the helicopter doing most of the airborne firefighting, Mr. Lindner said.

The incident occurred at the point where the power line crossed Canada Road, a situation that contributed to the fire being on both sides of the road, Mr. Lindner said. The damaged line shut off power to traffic signals on Woodside Road, including at the intersections with I-280 and with Alameda de las Pulgas, he said.

The main fire was where the vegetation was thickest, in the area between Canada Road and the freeway, Mr. Lindner said. The vegetation included flashy fuels -- fire-prone weeds -- shrubbery and eucalyptus trees.

Firefighters worked to isolate and contain the fire, and a helicopter dropped three or four loads of water, he said. With firefighters on all four sides of the burning, and then smoldering, vegetation, the fire was well contained, he said.

Traffic was snarled on northbound I-280 as the two lanes nearest the fire were closed. Parts of Canada Road were closed for several hours.


Like this comment
Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2014 at 2:17 am

JulieToo is a registered user.

We were on our way to dinner, planning to eat at Buck's Restaurant in Woodside when we found ourselves in the middle of this traffic jam.

When we finally arrived at Buck's it was closed. Someone was just locking up the front door. There was a sign on the door saying: "Closed. Power Outage"

Like this comment
Posted by Denise and Millo Fenzi
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 26, 2014 at 8:45 pm

As witnesses to this event, there are several inaccuracies which need to be clarified.

A tree did not fall on a car. We watched as a tree fell in front of a car. The car stopped in time and was not hit by the tree. An electrical line, however, did land on the car, and everyone got out safely.

When the electrical line came down, several fires started almost simultaneously. There were at least four fires started within fifteen seconds. On the Eastern side, those fires were within feet of property fences in the grass and shrub areas. The situation was very dangerous and properties were absolutely at risk.

We called 911 within thirty seconds of the tree falling. The dispatcher was told repeatedly that a car had not hit anything; that a tree had fallen on the road and that electrical wires were rapidly starting fires which were now burning very close to properties, as well as between Canada Road and the 280 freeway.

Civilians acted to protect their property with water hoses and shovels, which is why the fire did not cause more damage on the east side of Canada Rd. The civilians were able to contain the fires before the fire department showed up.

There is another piece missing from your story and it concerns us greatly; the response time from the fire department was somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes after we called for help. How is this adequate to protect our town?

If this is considered "normal and acceptable" then we have lost all faith in the Woodside Fire department.

We will attend the next town hall meeting to bring up this issue with the governing council. In a town with a very high danger for fire, we believe a better plan needs to be in place to ensure our safety.

Like this comment
Posted by Canada resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 27, 2014 at 4:57 am

Thank you Denise and Millo. It would be great if the fire dept could confirm response times and SLAs.

David Boyce, can you pls investigate?

Like this comment
Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

JulieToo is a registered user.

Denise and Millo Fenzi:

Thank you for posting the accurate facts. (from Almanac story)..."The vehicle was towed from the scene, but the damage seemed limited to scratches and the vehicle appeared drivable, he said."

It seems very unlikely that if a tree had fallen on a car it would be drivable and have just a few scratches. That's for sure.

Anyway, thanks for setting the record straight.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 3,634 views

Eat, Surf, Love
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,206 views

Couples: So You Married Mom or Dad . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,154 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 829 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 245 views