Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 | 11:35 p.m.
ANTIOCH, Calif. — An out-of-control wildfire spurred the evacuation of a small Northern California island and Southern California firefighters attacked several small but potentially dangerous blazes Tuesday as gusty Santa Ana winds swept the region and humidity plunged to vegetation-withering levels.
The fire on Kimball Island in Suisun Bay between San Francisco and Sacramento spread across at least 40 acres on a dry, windy day. It engulfed one of the island's 20 buildings and was threatening others, Solano County fire dispatcher Robyn Rains said.
The U.S. Coast Guard was helping with evacuations and Delta Fire Protection District crews had difficulty getting to the blaze because the site is was only accessible by boat.
"It started as a 10-foot brush fire," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Josh Lemas. "With the wind increasing 5 knots, it kept spreading the fire."
No one was injured and all of the approximately 15 people who were on the island have been accounted for, officials said.
In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds, generated by strong surface pressure anchored over the West, were predicted to strengthen Tuesday night and remain at advisory levels until noon Wednesday. Red-flag warnings for fire danger were expected to remain in effect until Wednesday evening.
In Los Angeles, a SuperScooper aircraft dumped tons of water on streams of flame that rolled up a steep cliffside along Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades on Tuesday afternoon. The flames crept within feet of multimillion-dollar cliff-top homes, but none was damaged.
The fire was knocked down in about 1 1/2 hours, but the highway remained closed in both directions and wasn't expected to reopen until Tuesday morning.
Earlier, more than 100 firefighters and two helicopters responded when a large house caught fire in the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley and strong gusts threatened to spit embers into a neighborhood downwind.
In Riverside County's Jurupa Valley, flames were spread by 25 mph winds across a 2-acre property and destroyed two houses, two mobile homes, three motor homes, 40 vehicles in different states of repair and about a dozen small structures, state fire Capt. Lucas Spelman said. Two more mobile homes were damaged.
Alejandro Heredia fled with his 3-year-old child, 15-day-old baby and dog when palm trees began burning in a field behind his home. He said firefighters concentrated on saving his parents' nearby house while his burned.
"We asked for help, and they said that they were doing what they can," Heredia told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "Everything is lost. There's nothing left."
By nightfall, 110 firefighters had the blaze fully contained.
"The reason why we got an upper hand so quickly is because the wind had actually subsided for about 10 minutes," allowing a breathing space for firefighters, Spelman said.