Cali the dog was barking around 3:30 p.m. Thursday on Castle Glen Road, alerting Dana Gold to the hot danger. It was then that Dana Gold looked out and saw a very particulate smoke flying across the patio.
"I ran out of the house and she (Cali) freaked out," Gold said. The dog ran back in and Gold followed to get her. Gold also grabbed her laptop, phone and keys.
No one was injured in the hillside fire that left two homes in unincorporated Walnut Creek 75 percent destroyed.
Gold ran out with the dog and the equipment and noticed flames darting up the hill. She put Cali in the car and drove down the hill.
Several houses are perched along a relatively flat driveway carved into the elbow of Castle Glen Road, which curves uphill. Two of those houses burned Thursday.
Patch interviewed Gold two hours after the fire as she stood with neighbors, watching firefighters play hoses on smoldering spots on the steep hillside. The narrow Castle Glen Road was like a parking lot full of fire engines.
Gold said she and husband Adam and Cali would stay with family in the area. The other home that burned had four tenants in it, she said.
Across the street, a woman who identified herself only as Gabriella recalled hearing the fire. "It sounded like a waterfall," she said. "I looked out (at) the patio and there was a small patch of flames in the grass."
Gabriella said she called 9-1-1 and the first engine was there within five minutes. That engine came from a station a half-mile west on Tice Valley Boulevard near the Rossmoor retirement community.
The engine company checked first if rescue was needed and it wasn't, said Lewis Broschard, fire marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. The firefighters then started to defend other homes along the extended driveway as well as those threatened by fires on hillsides up and downhill from the burned houses at 264 and 272 Castle Glen Road.
More than 60 firefighters and about 18 engines battled the blaze, along with a CalFire helicopter. Smoke drifted a mile east over the 680 freeway during the afternoon commute.
Two fire investigators were on the scene Thursday evening. They believe the fire started in one of two places: a power line at the bottom of the hillside that leads up to the burned houses, or a shed near one of the homes, said Broschard. There was high brush and "the fire got right up to the side of the fences and houses," he said.
Either starting point appears to suggest it was an accident. "It doesn't appear to be arson," said Broschard.
The houses still have a majority of the structure, including walls, standing, Broschard said, but the insides were "fairly well gutted."