A grass fire in the Sutter Buttes had scorched about 1,200 acres as of Wednesday evening, up from about 800 acres earlier in the day. Crews had contained 90 percent of the blaze after working to suppress the fire throughout the day, a Sutter County official said.
During a Wednesday morning briefing, Sutter County Fire Chief John Shalowitz said the blaze looked to be dead except for in one area. However, with stronger south winds, he said conditions could change quickly.
“This is a slow-moving fire, but the wind could shift and bring it down on us,” Shalowitz said. “…We are focused on gaining more containment as we go.”
Crews were sent out to establish contingency lines around the charred areas to keep nearby residences safe. No structures were immediately threatened on Wednesday. Two helicopters assisted ground crews throughout the day.
Some of the challenges crews faced in fighting the fire included steep terrain, several gas wells in the area, and dry conditions mixed with wind and wild animals.
“We want to try to put this to bed as much as possible (Wednesday),” Shalowitz said.
Officials have not determined what started the grass fire. The blaze started along Pass Road and threatened the communication towers on top of the Buttes.
Sutter County Public Information Officer Chuck Smith said the fire did minor damage to the communication array – which includes transmitting and receiving antennas for federal, state, local and law enforcement agencies, as well as some commercial telecommunications equipment.
“I don’t know if any equipment was put out of commission. All I know is that it was described as minor damage, which as we were watching the flames go up there, minor damage is a relief,” Smith said.
The mandatory evacuation of four homes along Pass Road was lifted Wednesday night and residents were allowed to return. An advisory evacuation of about six to eight homes along West Butte Road and Kellogg Road was also lifted.
Pass Road was closed to the public Tuesday night so crews could operate unimpeded. The road remained closed for most of Wednesday before reopening in the evening.
An evacuation shelter was opened at Sutter Union High School on Tuesday night. One person stayed overnight – a resident who was displaced from the Mendocino Fire. The evacuation shelter was closed on Wednesday morning.
“We still have resources at Sutter High School if we need to reopen,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon.
Some of the fire crews assisting Sutter County in the response included the Sacramento Metropolitan District, the Sacramento City Fire Department, CalFire, the Pleasant Grove Fire Department, the Beale Air Force Base Fire Department, the East Nicolaus Fire Department, the Meridian Fire Department, and Yuba City Fire.
Smith said several firefighters from throughout the region, who helped knock down the Butte Fire, are now being deployed to other responsibilities.