Grass fires are usually simple to put out. Until they are not. When the grass is extremely dry and fuel for a fire across undulating hills and down deep canyons in the Sutter Buttes, things can get complicated in a hurry.
Fire fighters from surrounding communities joined the battle this week when a grass fire erupted Tuesday evening in the Sutter Buttes, leading to the evacuation of four homes, and creating a very real threat to a multi-million dollar communications array on top of South Butte.
The peak of South Butte is the highest point in Sutter County, 2,112 feet–and the highest point in the Sacramento Valley, which is why several law enforcement agencies and many private companies, including radio and television stations, have equipment on the peak that helps them communicate throughout Northern California. (One Sacramento TV station was broadcasting from a camera it has stationed on the peak as flames rose toward it).
As the fire spread up the south side of South Butte, aerial tankers dumped chemical retardant in a thick line in an attempt to stop the fire before it reached the peak. The strategy was a partial success, but a small amount of damage occurred at the communications array as fire crawled up the peak and around its left flank northwesterly toward the 1,000 foot tall West Butte.
The Sutter Fire Department, along with fire fighters from Meridian, Sutter, East Nicolaus, Pleasant Grove, Yuba City, Colusa County, Sacramento County, Sacramento Metro, CalFire, and Beale Air Force Base responded. CalFire and Sac Metro provided aerial resources that helped fire fighters on the ground contain the fire by Thursday morning.
Sutter Fire Chief John Shalowitz cautioned firemen to watch for shifting winds, rattlesnakes and wild hogs in the Sutter Buttes. “Head on a swivel, keep alert,” he said at a Wednesday morning briefing.
Sutter County’s Sheriff’s Office, Road Department, Community Development Department, Office of Emergency Management, County Administrator’s Office, General Services, and IT departments provided support to the fire fighting effort. County Supervisors were active in staying informed so they could share information with constituents.
With thousands of fire fighters already deployed to wildfires across California, Sutter County is very grateful to have received so much mutual aid support during the Sutter Buttes fire. Many of these fire fighters recently returned from deployment at the fire near Redding, including Yuba City Fire Chief Pete Daley, who led a strike team last week that included members of the Yuba City and Linda fire departments, which saved the historic, mostly wooden town of Old Shasta.
Sutter County got a good look at how California’s fire fighters respond during a time of need. Fortunately, the Sutter Buttes fire was small (1,200 acres) in comparison to what is happening in other parts of California. But we appreciate every fire fighter who turned out.