Large California Blaze Consumes Business

A massive fire destroyed a pallet-making business and adjacent lumber yard near Richmond Parkway last night, throwing flames eight stories into the sky.

At least 11 engines fought the blaze for four hours before bringing it under control. Clean-up crews remained Wednesday morning to prevent flare-ups, said Battalion Chief Alan Biagi of the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Department.

Nobody was reported injured or missing as of 9:30 a.m.

"It was about three or four acres full of various material. There were stacks of wooden pallets, I'd say about 30 feet high," Biagi said. "There was some type of milling operation next door . . . here were stacks of huge logs burning."

A 911 caller reported the fire about 10:55 p.m. at Cypress Pallet, a business near the West County Wastewater District plant on Garden Tract Road, acting Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks said.

Garden Tract Road is west of the parkway, in a sparsely inhabited marsh area near San Pablo Bay. Firefighters found nobody at the property, and were unable to move some large trucks to prevent them from burning.

One or two flatbed trucks, a mobile home and a pickup truck were destroyed, as were some smaller panel trucks, firefighters said.

Much of the yard was engulfed when engines arrived, Biagi said. Fallen power lines blocked access to some of the fire. The fire quickly consumed vehicles, fencing and a large warehouse building at the center of the property containing manufacturing equipment.

"It was a difficult fire. Part of it was the remote location," Biagi said.

Contra Costa Fire District and a mixed battalion of engines including units from the Rodeo-Hercules and Pinole fire departments joined Richmond about midnight. The blaze was brought under control about 3 a.m.

Firefighters and equipment from the Moraga-Orinda Fire District and the Contra Costa Public Works department also assisted.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Crews have not yet compiled a dollar estimate of the damage.

The owner of Cypress Pallet was not immediately available for comment.