Flurry of late-season fires break out in West Marin

David Briggs
An airtanker drops a load of retardant through strong winds on a fast-moving brush fire on Olema Hill last Thursday. High temperatures and low humidity led to three fires in the last week, including one that knocked out power in Olema, Point Reyes Station and Inverness.  

A “wrath” of fires have broken out in West Marin, as Inverness Fire Chief Jim Fox puts it. A brush fire on a Point Reyes Station ranch and two in Olema—one that took out power for over a thousand residents for a couple of hours on Tuesday evening—burned this week. 

In the last two weeks, ranchland burned off Highway 1 south of Marshall and another fire was stopped off Kyleswood Place in Inverness Park. Across the county, fires are breaking out daily, said Bret McTigue, battalion chief for the Marin County Fire Department. But the 27 recorded burns since June have been “pretty typical for Marin,” he said.

Last Thursday, a passerby pulled off the road on Olema Hill and watched the first firefighter take out a hose to fight the small blaze. High winds pushed the flames into the crackling brush, and 10 acres were ultimately scorched. Olema was hit again with a smaller fire on Tuesday night after a sparking powerline lit ranchland off Highway 1 and led to power outages throughout the area.

“We’re at critical levels right now throughout the state,” Battalion Chief McTigue said. “All the rain that we got did help with the drought, but we’ve seen a lot of starts this year. Fire caries very easily with those receptive fuels. We’re seeing a lot of small fires and they’re happening daily.”