Update: Mount Diablo Fire 90 Percent Contained

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Photo by Douglas Macy
Photo by Douglas Macy

By David Mills and Vanessa Castañeda

Updated, Thursday at 8:39 a.m.

The fire that engulfed more than 3,100 acres of Mount Diablo is 90 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. 

Some firefighters are "mopping up" inside the fire line boundaries, according to a Cal Fire spokesperson, while others are being sent home to their families.  

Officials say that fire personnel are still working in the area and advise residents nearby to be careful when driving near the area that burned. 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory issue that will remain in effect until the fire is completely doused. People with sensitive respiratory systems are advised to stay indoors. 

Updated, Wednesday at 1:52 p.m. 

Firefighters are returning home Wednesday afternoon, now that the Morgan Fire near Clayton, California is 70 percent contained. Cal Fire reduced the official count of the acreage that burned to 3,133.

Officials are now saying that 1,372 firefighters from all over the Bay Area assisted in battling this blaze. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Updated, Tuesday at 7:29 p.m.

All evacuations were lifted and all roads are open in Costra Conta County Tuesday night, according to Cal Fire officials who are working to extinguish the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. 

The 3,243-acre wildfire is 60 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. 

The blaze that began by Morgan Territory Road near Clayton, California on Sunday afternoon brought 1,413 firefighters together from all over the San Francisco Bay Area together. For the past two days, they have braved the unknown in precarious terrain, relying only on each other and their gear. 

Together, they have kept communication towers, power lines, and people safe from a fire grew from 450 acres to more than 3,000 acres in less than 24 hours. Fire officials said parched brush fueled the fire. The heat and wind exacerbated it.   

Cal Fire shared official maps of where the fire burned Mount Diablo with Patch Tuesday morning.  

Three suffered injuries while battling the fire, which is not completely under control.  However, homes near the area are no longer in danger, Cal Fire said.   

We will update you with more information as it becomes available.

Update, Tuesday at 4:40 p.m.

All the road closures have been cancelled except for Morgan Territory Road, which remains closed where it intersects with Manning Road, according a Cal Fire Spokesperson.

The 3,243 acre fire is 45% contained. 

Update, Tuesday at 11:48 a.m.

Cal Fire released an official map of where the fire burned Mount Diablo. See it here on Patch. 

The 80-acre Contra Costa Fairgrounds in Antioch is supplying space, food and care for animals that were forced to evacuate following the Morgan fire.

Update, Tuesday 11:08 a.m.

Morgan Territory and Marsh Creek Roads remain closed to through traffic Tuesday morning, according to Lewis Broschard Fire Marshal for Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

"We're getting conflicting reports from the field, so we've sent people to double check," Broschard told Patch. 

The roads are open only to residents of the area who have valid identification. The fire is 3,243 acres, with 45 percent of it contained. About 75 homes remain in the path of potential peril.

Update, Tuesday at 9:11 a.m.

The Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo is now 45 percent contained, Cal Fire officials reported Tuesday morning, with mandatory evacuations still in effect. 

Cal Fire reports the blaze has scorched 3,243 acres, a figure about 500 acres smaller than reported on Monday. Officials said "better mapping" led to the downgrade in acreage.

Firefighters have contained the fire in the area where it jumped Morgan Territory Road on Monday night.  

Three injuries have been reported. One firefighter injured a foot, while two others were treated for heat exhaustion on Monday. 

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for several neighborhoods on the east side of the mountain, said Robert Marshall, spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.  

"There's not a lot of fire out there, but there's fire in the trees," Marshall said. "We're concerned about the trees falling over...They're big enough to kill people," he told Patch Tuesday morning. 

Portions of Marsh Creek Road, Morgan Territory Road and Deer Valley Road remain closed near the fire zone. 

Marshall said he has zero reports of homes lost in the fire from any of the three divisions of firefighters battling the blaze. One communication structure was damaged.  

He expects the fire to remain under control today. Winds are expected to blow at about 3-8 mph today, which reduces the chance that they will blow the fire onto other areas. The winds were clocked at 16 mph on Monday, gusting to 26 mph, according to the weather.com. Today they are blowing south west, which may or may not be a problem. 

"Today the humidity is up," Marshall said. "Our main worry is not that the fire will get bigger, but that the little areas of fire will become a danger," he said, highlighting the fact that the tree canopy and falling branches are more of a problem.

More than 700 fire personnel and 100 engines are battling the flames.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined. 

"Hopefully we can get everyone back into their homes soon," he said. 

Update, Monday at 11:01 p.m.

Firefighters were working keep the flames on the west side of Morgan Territory Road Monday evening, while the fire burning Mount Diablo continued to consume everything in its path.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. the fire jumped Morgan Territory Road at Brookside Ranch, according to Patch readers and information heard on police radio frequencies. Wind blew flames over the road and onto the property where many horses are housed, igniting it.  

Marsh Creek and Morgan Territory Roads are completely closed to all traffic. 
Deer Valley Road is closed at Balfour Road. It is not clear when they will reopen.

Fire officials say 3,718 acres have been charred on the mountain's southeast side and the blaze is 20 percent contained.

About an hour and a half earlier, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson had said it appeared firefighters were getting the upper hand.

"Things are looking really good right now," she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Contra Costa Fire District Fire Marshal Lewis Broschard.

He was standing at a command post at Camp Parks in Dublin looking at the blaze. He said the smoke seemed to have diminished significantly.

"Things seem to be moving in the right direction," he said. 

Broschard said two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion this afternoon, but they are apparently in good condition.

He added firefighters were also able to protect the communication towers this afternoon on the mountain's North Peak. There were scattered power outages due to the fire, but no damage was done to the towers.

Broschard said the fire has blackened almost the entire southeast side of the mountain.

No communities are threatened and no homes are currently in danger. However, Broschard said he believed Sunday's evacuation orders were still in effect. 

The blaze is in the area of Curry Canyon. If you were standing in the burned area looking out, you would see Livermore in the distance.

The Contra Costa Sheriff's Office said that residents with identification are being allowed to temporarily return to their homes to retrieve belongings, medications, and family pets.  Given the hazardous conditions created by the Morgan/ Mount Diablo fire, people are strongly discouraged from remaining in the area. 

Update, Monday at 4:22 p.m.

Firefighters are working to protect the communication towers atop Mount Diablo.  A flare has some concerned. 

Down south, Santa Clara County is assembling five engines and two battalion chiefs to help control the flames.  

Meanwhile, firefighters are waiting on lunches and water to be delivered. 

Update, Monday at 2:49p.m.

The fire on Mount Diablo has expanded to 3,718 acres, according to Lewis Broschard, Fire Marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. This acreage count was also confirmed by The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. 

It is 20 percent contained.  

At least one firefighter is suffering from heat exhaustion and is being transported to an air conditioned area for treatment. 100 lunches and 30 cases of water and electrolyte drinks are supposed to be on the way for the firefighters who did not get fed this morning. 

Meanwhile, Red Cross Bay Area tweeted, "Volunteers are at Evac Center at the Clayton Library ready to provide information & support to anyone affected by the #MorganFire." The center will provide warm meals and a place to stay for people evacuated from their homes.

The fire has also debilitated at least four ham radio repeaters, according to the National Association for Amateur Radio

Update, Monday at 1:33 p.m.

Firefighters drizzled orange flame retardant on the west side of Mount Diablo to prevent the fire from spreading.  Mount Diablo State Park is closed to everyone until further notice, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  

Update, Monday at 12:35 p.m. 

A PG&E spokeswoman said the fire on Mount Diablo has interrupted power to 30 customers. PG&E is on the scene to support Cal Fire, according to Tamar Sarkissian, PG&E Spokesperson. Crews have received the greenlight from Cal Fire to patrol the power distribution lines. 

"We can never really tell when an outage may occur,"Sarkissian said, when asked whether it was likely that residents in the area would experience power loss. "We are doing everything we can to work with CalFire, and make sure that firefighters are safe from electrical hazards," she said.  

Firefighters are saying that the blaze is expanding. The official amount of land on fire remains at 1,500, according to Dennis Rein, Moraga-Orinda Fire District Spokesperson, and Cal Fire. 

A Patch reader said the Chevron gas station at Willow Pass and Sixth street has lost power, rendering its credit card machines ineffective. 

Update, Monday at 11:20 a.m.

705 firefighters are working to douse the blaze that is rapidly moving down the eastern side of Mount Diablo, according to firefighters at the scene. The fire has an "extreme vortex," a firefighter said. 

Cal Fire's official position is that the fire is 1,500 acres and 10 percent contained. 

Three helicopters are on scene, working to extinguish the fire. The cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Update, Monday at 9:45 a.m. 

Cal Fire said the fire is burning adjacent to Mount Diablo Sate Park in the "State Responsibility" area. The blaze is threatening PG&E's electrical lines, communication infrastructure, and the historical buildings on the summit of the mount. 

The following roads are closed: 

Marsh Creek Road closed from Camino Diablo to Regency Road in Clayton. Morgan Territory Road is closed from Marsh Creek Road to Highland Road (Alameda County). Deer Valley Road is closed at Balfour Road.

Only residents with photo identification will be allowed to pass. 

People with large animals may take them to Heather Farms Equestrian Center in Walnut Creek. For more information, please visit: www.ecwc.org or call 925-939-2929.  

At 8:45 a.m. on Monday, Cal Fire was ordering mandatory evacuations for residents of Oak Hill Lane, Curry Canyon, Curry Lane, Curry Point, Trail Ride Road, East Trail Road, Russelman Park Road, Upper Trail Road and Lower Trail Road.

The Clayton Community Library, located at 6125 Clayton Road, Clayton, California was converted into an evacuation center.   

At 8:59 a.m. the fire had grown to more than 1,500 acres in size and was burning burning on the eastern slope in a southerly direction away from the town of Clayton, according to Lewis Broschard, Fire Marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. Broschard said the town of Antioch is not in danger. 

This story was first published at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday:
Bolded sections indicate an update. 

The absence of a strong wind was about the only break fire crews caught as they fought a fast-growing blaze on the eastern slope of Mount Diablo Sunday night and Monday morning. 

The fire, which was first reported off Morgan Territory Road at 1:08 p.m., expanded with such ferocity that it triggered an evacuation order for people in the homes about seven miles south of Clayton, California.

Between 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. it doubled in size, ballooning from 400 to 800 acres. (For a chart of the latest fire statistics, click here.)

Smoke billowing hundreds of feet above Mount Diablo was visible from as far away as San Francisco and Marin County.

At 8:41 a.m. Monday the fire was 1,500 acres and 10 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. 

Click here to see what East Bay residents are saying this morning about the blaze.

The blaze started on the lower slopes of the mountain near the intersection of Morgan Territory and Marsh Creek roads. By nightfall, it had burned all the way up the southeast side of the mountain. Firefighters say parched brush fueled the fire.

About 7:30 p.m. the flames had advanced close to the summit of North Peak. Fire trucks lined the peak, attempting to halt the fire’s ascent, while down below public officials ushered people to safety.

When the fire threatened 75 structures Sunday afternoon, public safety officials ordered residents of Oak Hill Lane and Curry Canyon Road to evacuate to the Clayton Community Library. Contra Costa sheriff’s deputies rolled through the neighborhoods at about 4 p.m., using loudspeakers to inform people there was a mandatory evacuation and that they needed to leave immediately.

By Sunday evening, about 250 firefighters from six departments were working to halt the fire’s progress. Air tankers and helicopters doused the fire from above until darkness grounded the aircraft.

Dennis Rein, a public information officer for the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, said Sunday evening the fire would probably burn all night and into morning.

Rein said fighting a fire on the mountain is tough, but it’s particularly tough on that side of Diablo. There are few fire roads and the terrain is steep.

He said the town of Clayton appeared safe for the time being.

On Sunday evening, people walked the streets of the small town, peering up at the smoky mountain top.

“Any fire on that mountain is scary,” said Clayton Mayor Julie Pierce, who was at the library waiting for evacuees.

At 7 p.m., only a handful of people from the fire area had arrived at the library.

One of them was a woman who identified herself as Virginia. She lives in a trailer park in the Morgan Territory area.

She said there was a lot of smoke in her neighborhood throughout the afternoon. Residents couldn’t see the flames, but they were a “bit concerned” about the fire.

Virginia grabbed “a few things you can’t replace” such as photographs and drove to the Clayton Library.

She didn’t know when she’d be allowed back home and at that time she wasn’t sure where she would sleep Sunday night.

American Red Cross volunteers were at the library, trying to find accommodations.

People with horses boarded in the fire zone were advised to take their animals to the equestrian center at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek.

A short distance away at the park and ride lot at the Peacock Creek housing tract, members of the Concord Mount Diablo Trail Ride Association had gathered.

The members had driven out to stables in the fire zone and evacuated two dozen horses.

Elaine Baker, a Concord resident and member of the association, said they didn’t wait for evacuation orders to go get the horses.

“Even if it seemed premature and silly, we wanted to go out there,” said Baker. “It wasn’t silly to us.”

SR September 09, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I'm sure glad we all listened to the Contra Costa Times Editorial Board and didn't vote for that silly parcel tax. Increased response times only inpact you if you or someone you care about experiences a fire or medical problem and really, how likely is that in our lifetimes?
Mike September 09, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Light Ash falling in San Ramon - Bollinger@Dougherty area :(
Mindy September 10, 2013 at 02:24 AM
If you need help with your dogs,kitties that need a place to stay because you have been evacuted from the Mt diablo fire #MorganFire. #WunderbarsPetHotel would like to let pet owners know that we would love to help out and have your pets stay with us free of charge till you are able to go home. (925) 930-9767 or message us thru https://www.facebook.com/WunderbarPetHotel
Vanessa Castañeda September 10, 2013 at 07:52 PM
@Jasmine, here's the official map of the area that burned: <http://concord-ca.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/cal-fire-map-shows-earth-scorched-by-mount-diablo-fire> @SR, what's your take on this: <http://concord-ca.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/has-the-mount-diablo-fire-changed-your-mind-about-a-con-fire-parcel-tax>


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