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April 30, 2013

Grass fire engulfs 150 acres near Merced Airport

A large vegetation fire near Merced Regional Airport burned about 150 acres Tuesday afternoon. The fire was reported about 2 p.m. and was under control by 3, fore officials said.

A large vegetation fire near Merced Regional Airport burned about 150 acres Tuesday afternoon.

The fire was reported about 2 p.m. and was under control by 3, said Battalion Chief Tom McCall of the Merced Fire Department. He labeled the blaze as a "wind-driven grass fire."

No injuries were reported and the only known property that was damaged were fence posts, McCall said. The fire engulfed city, county and private property.

The Merced County Fire Department and Merced City Fire Department responded, McCall said. Four city engines, four county engines and two county water tenders responded, along with two chief officers for Merced County and three chief officers for Merced City.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, McCall said.

Ron Elliott, airport manager for Merced Regional Airport, said the runway had to be closed for about an hour because of the fire.

No commercial flights were disrupted, but some small private planes had to be diverted, he said.

Fire officials are reporting that a windy April, higher than usual temperatures and a dry winter are adding up to an early start for the fire season.

State fire officials are ramping up for a busy season, staffing stations ahead of the usual schedule. The California Department of Fire and Forestry is planning Wildfire Awareness Week next week, and noted in a release that fire activity has been increasing.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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