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Crews Contain Fire That Scorched More Than Half Of Delta Island

November 30, 1992

BRADFORD ISLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Residents left with a smoldering peat soil fire, the remnants of a blaze that scorched half the island community, may have to flood part of the island to douse the flames, authorities say.

Firefighters on Sunday contained an erratic blaze that charred more than half of the 2,000-acre island in the Sacramento Delta but warned the fire could smoulder indefinitely.

Firefighters were hampered by 29-mph winds, lack of hydrants, mushy ground that couldn’t hold up heavy equipment and the fire’s ″weird pattern,″ said firefighter Jack Crisman of the neighboring Bethel Island Fire Department.

″It’s burning peat. ... It’s not like a regular wildfire. It’s a wildfire above ground and a wildfire below ground,″ he said. ″It can pop up anywhere. ... It can burrow in the soil for miles and pop up in Timbuktu.″

The fire blackened 1,200 acres. No injuries were reported. The cause was unknown.

About 20 of Bradford Island’s 30 to 50 residents were forced to flee when the fire that began shortly before noon Saturday threatened their homes. They were allowed to return Sunday afternoon.

Homeowners are now responsible for putting out the peat fire, said Capt. Joe McMurtrey of the Bethel Island Fire Department. They can do so by using an existing floodgate system to flood part of the island, he said.

Bradford Island, an agricultural and recreation area accessible only by boat, is at the northeast corner of Contra Costa County and about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco.

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