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Six-alarm brush fire near Edgewood Park forces evacuations in Emerald Hills, Woodside

Edgewood Park is closed as fire crews battle the blaze

UPDATE: As of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Edgewood fire was 20% contained, according to Cal Fire, up from 5% containment Tuesday night at 9 p.m., when evacuation orders in the area were downgraded to warnings. For the latest on the Edgewood Fire, check out our most recent story here. 

Areas of Emerald Hills and Woodside were under evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon after two fires broke around 2:30 p.m.

For Emerald Hills’ residents, Tuesday took a dramatic turn when a heatwave became a full-on fire evacuation.

Among those forced to leave were Jacqui Bellini-Murray, who just last year moved from San Carlos to Emerald Hills with her husband and teenage son. Bellini-Murray, who works remotely for a biotech company, was on a Zoom call around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon when the power suddenly shut off.

“We just thought, ‘Oh, it's really hot, no big deal,’” she said. “And then maybe 15 minutes later, my husband…was sitting in the backyard, and he's like, ‘There's smoke. It looks like maybe there's a fire.’”

They watched as smoke plumed and planes swooped down, dumping water and fire retardant over the mountains. Not 45 minutes later, an official from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office knocked on their door and ordered them to evacuate. 

“We probably were out of there within ten minutes,” she said.

Like many others from the Emerald Hills neighborhood, Bellini-Murray and her family have found themselves staying in a hotel mere minutes away on the other side of Redwood City.

“We’re in a hotel and just kind of camping,” she said, laughing in disbelief. “Just a little bit ago, I ordered DoorDash, and the front desk is just slammed…It's all evacuees, which sounds so weird, right?”

As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the six-alarm Edgewood Fire, which was in a canyon, had spread to 25 acres in a corner of land between Woodside, Redwood City and Edgewood County Park. It was not contained, fire officials said at a press conference.

The fire was moving in a north to northwest direction toward Cañada Road and areas in south Woodside and toward the town. Air tankers were dropping both water and significant amounts of fire retardant, and would continue until it fell dark, according to Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District. Officials said they were aggressively attacking the blaze.

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Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District speaks to media during a press conference about the Edgewood and Colton fires around 5:30 p.m. at the Woodside Fire Protection District Station 19 in Redwood City on June 21, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Wind was not a threat but high heat temperatures were expected to hold through the night and would require continued monitoring.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said that evacuations had been completed, but if conditions change to expand the evacuation zone, people would be asked to leave immediately if so ordered. An evacuee center has been set up at the Redwood City Veterans Memorial Senior Center at 1455 Madison Ave.

Abigail Keyes, who currently resides in Washington state, happened to be spending the weekend with her parents at their home in Emerald Hills. The family stepped out Tuesday early afternoon to mail a package at Woodside Plaza, but when they arrived, the UPS store was without power and redirected them elsewhere. That, plus the rising smoke in the distance, tipped them off.

“We came back to an evacuation warning,” Keyes said. She called her partner at home, and while they were on the phone, the warning became an order. Soon after, Redwood City Police officers and County Sheriff’s Deputies were on the ground, going door-to-door.

Cañada College is accepting large animals that have been evacuated, Robert Marshall, San Mateo Consolidated Fire's deputy fire chief, said. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office added that the animals can be brought to the staging area at parking lot 6.

One firefighter who was on the front lines was injured and taken by ambulance to Stanford Hospital. His condition is unknown. No structures have burned and there are no other injuries, Jonathan Cox, deputy chief of Cal Fire's San Mateo County division, said.

Interstate 280 remained open but was experiencing significant smoke and could do so again Tuesday evening. The California Highway Patrol was evaluating whether there will be any traffic diversions. The on ramps at Edgewood Road and Jefferson Avenue were closed.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Pacific Gas and Electric spokeswoman Karly Hernandez said in an email. The PG&E substation on Cañada Road was under threat from the fire and crews were stationed at the site, officials at the press conference said. The fire has caused significant blackouts including parts of Stanford University, Redwood City, Woodside and San Carlos. An outage map is at pge.com.

An Almanac reporter who was in the Emerald Hills area said she heard a loud explosion followed by a power outage.

The Colton Fire, at Colton Court to the south, was contained shortly before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Areas of Emerald Hills and Woodside are under evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon after two fires broke out after a transformer blew around 2:30 pm. on Tuesday.

A grass fire has reportedly burned 15 to 20 acres, is threatening homes and has the potential to jump Interstate Highway 280, according to fire officials' radio transmissions.

The Woodside Fire Protection District and CAL Fire's local CZU unit are on the scene of the fires. The Edgewood Fire was burning at Edgewood County Park and Nature Preserve in the area of at Edgewood Road and Crestview Drive and the Colton Fire at Colton Court to the south. The Colton Fire was contained shortly before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Fire officials recommended the California Highway Patrol shut down southbound 280, Cañada Road and Godetia Drive to traffic around 4 p.m., according to radio traffic.

As of 4:25 p.m. areas under evacuation order included Woodside, east of Cañada Road to Cañada College and Emerald Hills near the Elks Lodge and Golf Course.

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The areas marked in red were under evacuation order Tuesday afternoon, June 21, 2022. . Via ZoneHaven.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Ethan Peterson took to social media at 4:56 p.m. on Tuesday to give an update on the Edgewood Fire that has been tearing through the Emerald Hills area of San Mateo County and prompting evacuations.

He also said that "numerous" fire resources are on scene including air support and more will be responding.

"It's looking good right now," said Peterson. "If we can hold it at 20 acres, it will be looking good."

San Mateo County Parks announced the closure of Edgewood County Park and Nature Preserve at about 4 p.m. and asked the public to stay out of the area to allow for emergency crews' access.

Power outages are also being reported on the Peninsula, including in the Emerald Hills area. An outage map is at pge.com.

There are currently thousands of people without power along the San Mateo County Peninsula, according to Pacific Gas and Electric.

The outages, as of 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, span from Hillsborough down through the Emerald Lake Hills area that is now battling a 20-acre grass fire.

 San Mateo is the hardest hit, with at least 5,000 people without power, according to PG&E. Areas of between 500 and 4,999 customers affected are Hillsborough, San Carlos, and Redwood City. 

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Redwood City resident Johanna Rasmussen took this photo of the Edgewood fire on June 21, 2022. Courtesy Johanna Rasmussen

Check Zonehaven for evacuation details here.

Bay City News contributed to this report. Almanac Editor Andrea Gemmet contributed to this report. Redwood City Reporter Leah Worthington contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.