Stanford foothills scorched | June 29, 2007 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - June 29, 2007

Stanford foothills scorched

Commuters in gridlock as firefighters worked to extinguish 128-acre blaze

by Palo Alto Weekly

A blackened Stanford Dish hiking trail was closed Tuesday following a blaze that consumed 128 acres of the foothills between Highway 280 and Junipero Serra Boulevard on Monday afternoon and evening.

The fire threatened structures in the area of Old Page Mill and Page Mill roads and prompted a voluntary evacuation of homes, but no structures were damaged and no injuries to residents or firefighters were reported.

Police believe the fire was most likely caused by human activity, and are investigating whether it was started accidentally or intentionally. Investigators found that a water generator, which they originally thought caused the fire, was unplugged.

Firefighters from units as far south as Gilroy and aerial support from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) responded to the conflagration, which broke out at around 4 p.m. Cal Fire first received word at 4:13 p.m.

Smoke from the fire could be seen from many miles away. In Mountain View, great plumes of smoke blotted out much of the sky to the northwest.

The fire was fully contained by 7:30 p.m. Monday evening, according to Palo Alto police and fire communication manager Charlie Cullen.

Hao Thai, a science and engineering associate at Stanford University, was inside the university's Wilcox Solar Observatory on Reservoir Road when the wind started blowing the fire south towards the observatory. He noticed smoke dimming the sunlight as he took magnetic field measurements of the sun.

Then he began to hear sirens, and firefighters arrived. The flames hit the 15-foot fire break surrounding his building and went around, he said. Firefighters told Thai to "hunker down" and stay inside.

"They knew what they were doing, so I didn't worry too much," he said, while adding that it was nonetheless a scary experience.

On Tuesday, joggers and hikers streamed to Dish trailhead at Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra, hopeful of taking a morning walk and viewing the fire damage. However, they were turned away. An officer from the Stanford Department of Public Safety said that hot spots could still ignite up to 48 hours following a blaze.

Firefighters remained in the area, but all nearby streets were open.

The incident area is called the Junipero Serra/Frenchman's area and includes the foothills north of Page Mill Road, east of Highway 280 and west of Junipero Serra. The blaze consumed coyote brush and oak trees, officials said.

California has declared fire season early this year, according to Palo Alto Fire Department spokesperson Barbara Cimino.

"This is going to be a tough fire season for all of California," she said.


Posted by Olaf, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Odd. Growing up in Mountain View and often riding my bike to Stanford, there never was a chain-linked fence with officers surrounding the Stanfords hiking trails. Only in the last 4-5 or so years, have officers stood patrol at the re-inforced entrances to the trails. Google Earth image still shows a little umbrella hut. What exactly are they guarding against? Do those officers really care about YOUR well-being? Hell no. Hardly anyone cares if you live or die in the real world. One only needs to open the local news and read about the constant killings that occur in the neighorhoods just 40 miles north of us, in Oakland and San Francisco each and every year; over a 1000 people in the past 9 years just in Oakland alone. Where are the officers in that town warning that "hot spots could still ignite up to 48 hours following a blaze" of GUNFIRE in your neighborhood. The point is that the hiking trails are private property owned and operated by Stanford. When I bicycle past the checkpoints, I see THEIR property, being used by the few who wish to be sheltered and overly protected. Flip side, Stanford is protectig their property against overly-zealous parental plaintiffs always so eager to file suit for whatever little bobcat or flareup touches their child genius. (Duke Lacrosse?). Question is: who files on behalf of the 10 innocent victims murdered this weekend? Where are the officers? So much justice and over-protection for the privileged few and so much injustice for the masses of the inner-city citizens.