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The pool belonging to Shirley Paris, of Antioch, is covered with ash in Antioch, Calif. on Monday, March 18, 2013. Downtown Antioch and surrounding areas are cleaning up today because of a large grass fire that occurred on Sherman Island yesterday. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

ANTIOCH -- Tammy Larsen spent much of Monday morning sweeping away the ashy reminder of a large weekend grass fire from the entrance to her downtown business.

"I don't want to deal with it getting tracked into the office," said Larsen, owner of Almost There Travel.

However, the tiny charred flakes floated back into the air when she pushed them with the broom, some landing onto the business' wood floor.

"It's awful. I think I'm going to have to get a mop," she said.

Much of northern Antioch and Oakley's gutters and sidewalks were filled with tiny black slivers of ash spewed from a grass fire on remote Lower Sherman Island Sunday afternoon.

The fire was not an authorized burn, said Jamie Arno, a spokeswoman with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The district has been in touch with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the island, to see if it was going to have fire officials conduct an investigation into the cause, Arno said.

From a coverage standpoint, the remote marshy Delta island is "basically in no man's land," because no one pays taxes for fire services, said Capt. Ken Williams of the Rio Vista Fire Department. The Rio Vista district contracts with Delta Fire to provide services to communities.

"We're not going to expend any resources when that may take away from taxpayers elsewhere that may need them," Williams said.


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The fire department responds if there is some kind of medical injury, which there wasn't in Sunday's fire. Because there were no structures being threatened, the protocol is to let the fire burn out.

These type of large island fires tend to happen every three to four years, Williams said. Unfortunately, winds to the southeast blew the smoke and debris right into the East Contra Costa area, he said.

"Most times, the winds head up from the south. People will 'oh and aah' about a fire out on the islands, but nobody really thinks about it," Williams said.

Along with Larsen, several downtown Antioch shop owners on Second Street were in cleanup mode Monday, taking the soot in stride.

"It's just nature, this kind of thing happens," said Ric Eason, owner of Visions Hair and Nail Salon, methodically shoveling ash out of the gutter. "I'm not open today, but I wanted to come down here so I don't have a worse mess tomorrow."

Sunday afternoon's gigantic black plumes of smoke, and subsequent cascading ash captured the attention of many East Contra Costa residents, as it touched down as far away as Brentwood and southeast Antioch, according to witnesses.

"It was so dark outside, I thought it was going to rain. When I realized it was a fire, (the ashes) seemed so close, it seemed like it was a neighbor's house," said Carmen Franklin, of Antioch.

Shirley Paris saw the ash outside her window, but thought it was spring blossoms until she realized her pool was getting black.

"Then, the whole yard was turning black," she said.

In the aftermath, Paris is concerned about what damage the debris may have caused her pool's solar panels and water pump.

Some residents took to social media to share pictures of the fire, lament about just-cleaned cars or patios being dirtied, or discuss health concerns such as allergies and asthma.

Neither Sutter Delta Medical Center or Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Antioch, reported anyone complaining of smoke inhalation, shortness of breath or other possible effects from the blaze Sunday, but some still chose to be cautious.

"The air quality is hard to deal with. I had to make sure I used my asthma inhaler yesterday and this morning," Ellie Conley said.

Sunday was the largest spread of soot and smoke from a fire that Paris, a lifelong Antioch resident, can remember in her 77 years.

Added Franklin: "It was just annoying and disgusting. I stayed inside because I knew it was going to be hard to breathe."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.