A fire broke out in The Dish trail near Interstate 280 late Tuesday night, August 22. Fire officials speculated that an animal – most likely a bird – hit and damaged wires that set off the 3-acre grass fire. Santa Clara County and Palo Alto Fire resources were at the scene of the fire and extinguished the blaze in approximately 30 minutes.
The Stanford Police Department promptly released a warning to stay away from the scorched area and closed off Junipero Serra Road between Stanford Avenue and Campus Drive East. Members of the Stanford community received an SU Alerts with the onset of the fire, its extermination and the reopening of the trail, which was announced the following morning.
The fire threatened one building, but firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before any structural damage could be done.
The Dish hiking area was reopened to the public by Wednesday morning, August 23.
In an email to The Stanford Daily, Ernest Miranda, senior director of media relations at Stanford, shared that fire risk is a concern every summer and early fall around the Dish and Matadero Trail areas. This risk did not dissipate despite the above-average amount of rainfall that California received this year.
According to Miranda, heavy rainfall has both positive and negative impacts on wildfire conditions. Vegetation such as trees, large bushes and shrubs add to the sources of fuel through which wildfires can spread. After these sources of fuel uptake moisture, they can help slow the rate at which fire can spread.
However, the increase in moisture content comes with drawbacks: the rain causes annual grasses to grow, creating more “flash fuels” that can dramatically increase fire risk. These grasses, when dried, are referred to as “flash fuels,” because it can quickly and intensely catch on fire, Miranda stated.
Stanford has taken action to minimize fire risk in hot weather. In May and June, Stanford Buildings & Grounds Maintenance crews conducted a series of precautions to reduce the risk of fire.
“[Such] fuel management activities… include mowing [to create] fire breaks and removing vegetation that is in proximity to buildings in accordance with the California Fire Code and public Resources Code,” Miranda said.
Visitors to the Dish and Matadero Trail can also help to prevent fires.
“Whenever the trails are open, they are safe for use, but visitors should stay vigilant in their efforts to prevent fires as well as be alert to any signs of a fire starting,” said Miranda.
He advised visitors to stay on designated trails and out of dried vegetation. Activities involving any source of ignition are prohibited, such as smoking, using open flames and operating remote-controlled devices, motor vehicles and gas-powered equipment.
The Department of Public Safety will also continue to monitor weather and to regularly patrol hiking trails in the Dish area.
Contact Kelly Yookyeong Kim at ykkelly ‘at’ gmail.com.