As the Half Moon Bay Little League Majors All-Stars departed Redding Thursday morning following their elimination for the Northern California baseball tournament the evening prior, the Carr Fire was escalating into a game-changer in their wake.

Had Half Moon Bay not lost to Tri-City-Rocklin 6-2 Wednesday night, the team from the Coastside would have stayed in Redding to play in Thursday night’s scheduled championship game at Alta Mesa Park.

Due to the air quality index at Alta Mesa Park reaching 156 — surpassing the dangerous air quality limit of 150 — the Northern California Majors tournament was rescheduled and relocated, with the two finalists Tri-City and Petaluma American moving to Sutter Area Little League Park to begin play Friday.

“Wednesday night we were concerned with the air quality but it was OK to play,” said Korrie McMahan, the District 1 safety officer for the Northern California tournament. “By Thursday it was up at 156.”

All of Half Moon Bay’s players and coaches had departed by Thursday morning, according to Half Moon Bay manager Don Scatena. After the team became the first from HMB to win District 52 and Section 3 championships, the team opened play in the Northern California tournament Monday, the day the Carr Fire started.

The flames were visible from Alta Mesa Park in the distance, with several HMB fans in attendance posting photos of the glowing red haze emanating from the opposite side of the Sacramento River.

“You could see the smoke and the red in the hills from the field,” Scatena said. “The clouds were just bright red. You couldn’t see the flames just yet but you could see the red in the hills.”

By late Thursday night, the nearby Sundial Bridge, where the HMB Little Leaguers stayed at the Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, was engulfed in ash and soot from the blaze just 10 minutes away.

“The boys were there (at the Sundial Bridge) fishing, and right now … it’s almost completely engulfed in flames,” Scatena said.

Scatena, in particular, was cognizant of the air quality index. Following the North Bay fires last October, a majority of sports programs in San Mateo County were suspended for more than a week due to the AQI surpassing 150. Scatena, the director of student services for the San Mateo Union High School District, was integral to the day-to-day monitoring and decision-making as to the status of sports operations during the crisis.

At the tournament outset, it wasn’t the fire that worried Scatena, but the heat, he said.

“We saw it as just a small little fire,” Scatena said. “And every game we played, at first pitch it was at least 108 degrees.”

By Tuesday, the smoke drifts were noticeable at Alta Mesa Park, though the AQI was below 90, according to Scatena.

“Then Wednesday it started getting a little ashy and we started questioning the air quality,” Scatena said. “And the wind started to shift … and by Wednesday night, when we were done with our game it was black and ashy behind our hotel.”

Some of the HMB players and families departed Redding Wednesday night. Five of the players — Ben Cleary, Liam Harrington, Ryan Harrington, Ian Armstrong and Aidan Vazquez — are readying to play in Cooperstown, New York with their West Coast Federals travel team this upcoming week. It was a tentative trip for the five players, who would have had to skip it had the HMB Little League All-Stars advanced to the West Region Tournament in San Bernardino.

Come Thursday morning, when the rest of the team left Redding, the Sundial Bridge area was looking grim.

“By Thursday morning we woke up and [the ash] was like snow,” Scatena said.

As of Friday afternoon, the Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge was still operating and booked at full capacity. Staff at the hotel was monitoring the Carr Fire in the event of evacuation. More than 37,000 residents have been evacuated from the city of 92,000, according to figures published by the Associated Press.

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(1) comment


As CA District 1 Safety Officer I would like to address the concerns over the heat. We in CA D1 take heat very seriously and take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stoke. Each dugout was provided fresh water jugs and cups for the entire tournament. For us 108 was hot yes, but we are used to temperatures up in the 110s. We would never endanger players if the heat became an issue. I didn't take the comments in this article as if we didn't care but still wanted to explain for anyone who happened to read this and not fully understand why we would play in such heat. Thank you for being such an awesome team Half Moon Bay it was a pleasure hosting you.

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