Fire blazes in Contra Costa’s Port Costa


A fast-moving brush fire near the tiny Contra Costa town of Port Costa burned about 20 acres by 4:30 p.m., Thursday, sending thick plumes of smoke over Highway 4 as residents stood by for evacuation orders.

“It’s a very impressive column of smoke,” Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesperson Steve Hill said, watching the cloud grow thicker and darker on the north side of the freeway as he drove to the scene.

Reported at 2:25 p.m., the Scenic Fire sparked at Eckley Pier near the Bull Valley staging area — a lot near trailheads for hikers and bikers. As it progressed along Carquinez Scenic Drive parallel to the Carquinez Strait, the fire seemed to be charring acreage between the waterfront and railroads.

It quickly escalated to a second alarm in the small unincorporated area by the strait, known for its scruffy Victorian hotel. Cal Fire deployed aircrafts and at least one strike team — a group of five engines and crews dispatched to protect structures, Hill said.

While the firefighters and aircrafts spewing flame retardant managed to slow the fire, teams were not able to contain it, Crockett Fire Department spokesperson Steve Trotter told the Chronicle.

Within an hour, the Fire Department told residents around Carquinez Scenic Drive and Port Costa Reservoir Street to prepare to evacuate, though no orders were issued.

“Gather any important items you could carry with you, including medications, baby supplies, money, important papers and photos,” the Fire Department instructed in a bulletin. “Locate any pets or animals and be prepared to cage or leash them.”

At 4 p.m., Contra Costa County Public Works officials closed Carquinez Scenic Drive to traffic at Winslow Street and Canyon Lake Drive, asking motorists to use alternate routes.

The Scenic Fire, previously dubbed the Phoenix Fire, was among several that ignited in Northern California during the first week of summer, signifying an early start to what could be a vicious wildfire season.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @rachelswan