ANTIOCH (BCN) -- Arson is suspected as the cause of a Thursday night grass fire that burned about five acres south of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Antioch, according to Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials.
A few minutes after 8 p.m. Thursday, fire crews were called to an open field at 6600 Deer Valley Road where they found a blaze roughly the size of two basketball courts already in progress, said CCCFPD spokesman Steve Hill.
The fire was reported by a security guard who said that when he asked a man who appeared to be a transient to leave the area, the man allegedly "turned around and started setting the field on fire," Hill said.
By the time the fire was contained at 9:53 p.m., it had grown to roughly five acres and required the intervention of 10 fire engines, a water tender and about 50 fire fighters.
No one was injured by the fire nor did it damage any structures, Hill said.
A detailed description of the suspect was not available. He is being sought by investigators.
Hill said that although this particular fire is suspected to have been set purposefully, fire officials are urging residents to be extra vigilant when it comes to their own fire-safety behavior this spring because conditions appear to be right for an early start to fire season.
While the state has experienced a serious lack of rain, many places in the Bay Area received enough precipitation to encourage robust vegetation growth, which means potential wildfire fuel is plentiful.
"We're having unseasonably warm weather and also we're getting some days that are pretty windy," Hill said. "All those conditions add up to a lot of fuel on the ground with relatively low moisture levels and that adds up to a high fire risk."
"It's pretty early in the season to have a five-acre grass fire," he said. "That foretells that we'll likely have an early start to fire weather this year."
Fire officials are asking people to start thinking about weed abatement, creating "defensible space" around homes and businesses, being cautious with outdoor fires and smoking materials and paying attention to vehicle maintenance, since faulty exhaust systems or dragging vehicle parts can easily start vegetation fires.
"Now's the time to be thinking about the arrival of dangerous fire weather," Hill said.
More information about fire-safety practices can be found at the department's website: www.cccfpd.org.
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