National News

Rural California fire grows to 83,000 acres as crews carve containment lines

Posted July 4, 2018 7:48 p.m. EDT

SAN FRANCISCO -- The County Fire, which erupted Saturday afternoon in Yolo County, has nearly tripled in size over the past several days, so far scorching 82,700 acres in Yolo and Napa counties, or about 128 square miles, fire officials said. The blaze was 25 percent contained by Wednesday morning, but still threatened more than 1,300 structures, including hundreds of homes.

The majority of the risk is to Guinda, a small town along Highway 16 north of Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, where the blaze initially broke out. However, no structures have been destroyed.

Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place Wednesday for residences along Highway 128, between Monticello Dam and Pleasants Valley Road, west of State Highway 16 to Berryessa Knoxville Road, south of Old County Road 40 and north of County Road 53, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

``We have been very successful with a lot of our firefights on the west part of the fire in Napa County right by the lake (Berryessa), and we've done some really good work on the southern part, but we are continuing to try to get a handle on the northern part,'' said Cal Fire spokesman Israel Pinzon.

The biggest challenge to controlling the northern part of the fire has been difficult terrain, said Pinzon. That, combined with a dry winter and vegetation still recovering from the effects of a five-year drought, has contributed to what is becoming a volatile wildfire season.

Firefighters worked through the night and early morning hours to build a line around the fire. The County Fire, the largest of several wildfires burning in Northern California, had rapidly grown because of powerful northeast winds that pushed it across the Napa County line Sunday.

Favorable wind conditions, lower temperatures and high humidity on Wednesday helped firefighters take large steps in containing the fire, said Daniel Sanchez, a Cal Fire spokesman.

``The fight's going good,'' Sanchez said. ``The guys are working hard day and night.''

The Pawnee Fire in Lake County, meanwhile, burned 15,000 acres and was 90 percent contained by Wednesday morning, according to Cal Fire. Fifty structures remain threatened, and 22 have burned, including 12 homes. All evacuation orders have been lifted, but the remote Double Eagle Ranch neighborhood remains threatened, said Tricia Austin, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

The Pawnee Fire is expected to be fully contained by Saturday, and the County Fire is expected to be fully contained by Tuesday.

More than 4,600 firefighters continued to fight the two blazes on the July Fourth holiday.