Division Chief Germane Friends said the department is working with Tracy police to figure out how the fires were started and if there’s a reason to suspect arson. He said he didn’t know how exactly the fires were started, but that’s part of the investigation.
“Right now, it’s kind of inconclusive as far as if there’s any connection, but every last one of them seems to be suspicious,” Friends said. “I haven’t come to any conclusions because we’re still in an investigation, and until we get all the facts in, we can’t surmise that we have any problem.”
The day’s biggest blaze, Friends said, was a grass fire along Via Nicolo and Patterson Pass roads at about 2:30 p.m. Friends said it torched 60 to 80 acres and forced the department to shut down Interstate 580 for about 45 minutes while firefighters worked to extinguish it.
“It was a fire from hell,” said Friends, who noted that high winds blew the blaze across the highway.
That was just the fourth fire Tracy had that day, with the first call — near Weeping Willow Lane and West Schulte Road — coming at 10:31 a.m. and the final one — near West Blewitt and South Koster roads — at 11:59 p.m. There were no injuries on Wednesday, Friends said, and no major impact was left on the community.
Most of the burns were minor, except for the Via Nicolo fire and one near the corner of Mt. Diablo Avenue and West Street, which burned three structures in vacant lots. A shed was burned to the ground, Friends said, but the department doesn’t know the value of the total damage yet.
Friends said the rash of fires left the department pretty short-staffed, so units from CalFire, the Tracy Defense Depot, Alameda County, Lathrop and Manteca Fire departments were called upon to help.
“For about a five-hour span, we were in dire need of resources,” Friends said. “It was sporadic and just all over the place.
“It was a little bit of a madhouse, but we got through it.”
• Contact Tracy Press reporter Justin Lafferty at 830-4269 or email@example.com.