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Firefighters contain wildfire near Woodside

Cal Fire suspects the fire was started by a lighting strike.

The Skeggs fire, reported to be 100 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, burned about 50 acres of underbrush and leaf litter in the hills west of Woodside and east of Skyline Boulevard over several days.

The fire, which Cal Fire suspects was started by a lightning strike on the evening of Monday, Sept. 11, brought together Peninsula and state firefighters and "hand crews" of inmates from around Northern California to work around the clock for four days. A few trees were "torched," Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox of the Cal Fire told the Almanac, but mostly it was underbrush that burned.

At one point, 230 firefighters, 18 fire engines and eight hand crews were on the scene. One firefighter suffered a minor injury when struck by a falling branch, Mr. Cox said.

Each hand crew included a fire captain and 15 to 17 inmates men and women who had earned a transfer to one of 29 state conservation camps jointly managed by Cal Fire and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The Skeggs fire did no damage to structures and was never a threat to any, Mr. Cox said.

The location was "extremely remote," he said. Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso noted early on that firefighters first on the scene had a walk of about a mile long into the forest before they could begin their work, and then using hand tools only. A hose line of some 12,000 feet would come later.

The territory is wild, but there were no reported encounters between firefighters and wild animals, Mr. Cox said.

A helicopter spent about a day above the fire and its perimeter, dropping water and fire retardant to contain the spread of the flames, Mr. Cox said. Though substantial retardant fell on the tree crowns, which weren't burning, its presence helped in making ignition less likely, he said.

When night fell, firefighters used the higher humidity and lower temperatures to "really do some good mop up," Mr. Cox said, and keep watch for burning material, such as rolling logs, making it across the bare soil of a fire break.

Firefighters and their equipment will remain on the scene to monitor the area for several days, officials said.

Over the four days, Kings Mountain Road had been closed as well as Wunderlich and Huddart county parks in Woodside. Kings Mountain Road reopened Friday, as did Wunderlich Park with the exception of the Skyline Trail near Skeggs Point, Chief Ghiorso said. Huddart Park reopened over the weekend, officials said.

Two smaller fires were reported on the evening of Sept. 11 in the vicinity of Saddleback Drive and Portola Road in Portola Valley and near West Maple Way in Woodside east of Interstate 280.

Local agencies cooperating with Cal Fire included the Woodside Fire Protection District, the Kings Mountain Volunteer Fire Company, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and Parks Department, the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District and the California Water Service Company.

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