Fire crews score victory against Glass fire in Trione-Annadel State Park
Fire crews scored a critical victory in Trione-Annadel State Park on Tuesday, hemming in a branch of the Glass fire that threatened to roar through the heavily wooded park and into densely populated neighborhoods in eastern Santa Rosa.
The 5,000-acre park was a key battleground in the massive fight against the Glass fire overnight Monday and into the day Tuesday, not only because the heavily used and well-loved state park is the crown jewel in Santa Rosa’s park system, but its location offered the fire a potential gateway into Summerfield Road neighborhoods and Bennett Valley.
At stake in that firefight were “the neighborhoods off of Summerfield Road and the Bennett Valley region,” Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said. “We are doing everything we can to keep it out of all the communities moving forward.”
Using hand tools, drip torches and a chain saw, fire crews worked the northwest corner of the park, lighting control burns to corral the blaze in the northernmost reaches of the park.
There was little to no wind on Tuesday morning as Cal Fire crews monitored the flames on the ridge above Bader and Violetti roads, near a main access point for the swimming lagoon at Spring Lake Regional Park.
Firefighters caught a break from the weather. Windy, hot, dry conditions that fueled the fire’s explosive growth Sunday receded Monday night and Tuesday. A red flag warning, which signals dangerous fire conditions, was rescinded overnight, though temperatures are expected to be above average throughout the week.
That temperature spike and the potential for a return of higher winds has officials keeping a keen eye on the park as crews work to quash hot spots while the weather remains favorable, Gossner said.
Three strike teams with a total of 15 engines and two water tenders worked the fire Monday into Tuesday morning, with two bulldozers on standby, according to Cal Fire Operations Chief Mark Brunton.
The bulldozers went unused, though, because crews were able to use existing trails and natural topography to enforce fire lines.
“With the type of fuels that we have in the park we were comfortable using the current trail systems for control lines,” Brunton said. “If we have to use them to stop the fire, we’ll do that, but if we have success using the current trail system, then it doesn’t create any damage to the park that we’ll have to go back and repair later.”
The strategy worked. Firefighters were able to backfire and corral the blaze to approximately 100 acres by midday Tuesday, and Brunton expressed confidence that overnight efforts reduced what had been a major point of concern for officials.
The fire breached the park’s northern border after leaping Highway 12 near Melita Road, then jumping across Channel Drive near the Cobblestone and North Burma trailheads. Inside the park, the fire burned roughly southwest, with firefighters checking its progress well north of Lake Ilsanjo.
Though flames damaged relatively few of Annadel’s many popular trails, one key impact site is the Cobblestone trailhead — many newcomers’ main introduction to the park — as well as the climb into the park along that trail. The fire made the well-worn trail into a light-brown ribbon snaking through a black ocean of dead grass that crumbles to ash if touched.
Scars from that fire may churn the stomachs of hikers and bikers who’ve fallen in love with Annadel’s beauty, but the low intensity of the flames left many trees and even some typically flammable shrubs relatively unscathed, helping to create a healthier forestland in the future.
None of the homes along Channel Drive, nor the ranger’s station at the park entrance, appeared to have sustained any serious damage, though the fires came within mere feet of one home on the south side of Channel Drive. Homes in the Melita Heights area along Pepperwood Road also appeared undamaged as their neighborhood became a staging ground for firefighters.
Fire crews from across California tramped up an access road south of Violetti Road, wrapping around a knoll that rises above Annadel’s northwest corner and looks down over Spring Lake Regional Park to the west. One team chopped down small trees, branches and shrubs that could help the fire slop over from the state park to the county park, the roar of their chain saw punctuating the parade of feet trudging up the dirt path.
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