SALINAS, Calif. â€”A Salinas car fire that started Sunday morning quickly turned into something worse on a day when howling winds threatened to turn even the smallest blaze into a formidable challenge.
Firefighters said the fire started about 9:50 a.m., and by the time crews arrived to the scene on the 2600 block of Encinal Road, two cars had already burned down to their frames, a third was on fire and a tractor was just starting to ignite.
The strong winds pushed the blaze across a gully toward a nearby greenhouse, firefighters said.
Side by side with firefighters, employees of both the greenhouse and a neighboring packing company used fire extinguishers and sanitizer to counter the spreading fire, knowing all along that dangerous fuels loomed nearby.
“There’s diesel tanks laying around and we don’t want to have the fire go too far you know,” said Marcos Ramirez, who helped battle the fire.
Firefighters said only 600 gallons of water arrived on the first engine.
“Out here, especially in the rural areas, the water systems aren’t the best,” said Monterey County Regional Firefighter David Sargenti. “We had two or three hydrants that were dry and needed pumps to be turned on, and this being a Sunday, there’s not a lot of people around, so water initially was a challenge for us.”
Firefighters made use of sanitizer — normally used to scrub down packing machines — on the scene to put out the fire.
“They’re not firefighting equipment, but we’re just hoping we can help out,” said David Scaroni, an employee at Valley Harvesting and Packing.
Scaroni was working in the warehouse next door when he saw the first car go up in flames and realized the frightening potential.
“The fire spread with the wind. I immediately knew we were going to have issues because we have a severe north wind right now,” Scaroni said.
The fire was brought under control, firefighters said.
“The fire started to impinge on the greenhouse complex next door and some strong aggressive firefighting stopped that,” said Sargenti. “We put some resources in the right spot, and everything kind of came together with some people doing the right thing.”