Southern Calif. Wildfire Destroys 70K Acres Over the Weekend
San Francisco Chronicle
July 04—Firefighters attempted to protect more than 100 homes Tuesday as the relentless inferno scorching the hills of Yolo and Napa counties continued to grow, officials said.
The County Fire grew to 70,000 acres by late Monday night and was only 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The blaze ignited Saturday afternoon and threatens 116 homes and cabins. Authorities said it is burning an average of 1,000 acres per hour.
On Tuesday, fire crews focused their efforts on the north and south side of the conflagration, which "has been the primary spread of the fire," said Cal Fire Capt. Jordan Motta.
Temperatures were expected to be favorable with lower humidity, he added.
Previously, the fast-moving fire was fueled by strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity, and has since crossed over the Napa County line from Yolo County, said Scott McLean, Cal Fire's deputy chief.
An evacuation advisory was issued Tuesday for north of Highway 128 from Capell Valley Road to the Napa County line, and the California Highway Patrol advised Pleasure Cove Resort and Marina to cancel guest reservations over the next few days, said Chris Demetral, director of reservations at Forever Resorts, the resort's parent company.
The Lake Berryessa venue has 1.5 million visitors every year and allows guests to rent houseboats, small watercraft boats and cabins along the water.
"As of right now, guests are being canceled and refunded," Demetral said. "We are being proactive at this point. Fires are unpredictable."
Peter Kilkus, editor of the Lake Berryessa News, lives on the south end of the lake and said there are usually "tens of thousands of people" visiting for the Fourth of July holiday. But on Tuesday, he said, the water was nearly impossible to see due to the smoke caused by the fire.
"I see no boats out on the lake right now," Kilkus said. "It smells like camp fire."
The city of Winters, southeast of the County Fire, canceled its Fourth of July fireworks show due to the mandatory evacuations, poor air quality and smoke covering the town.
The show will be rescheduled, officials said.
But even as temperatures cool slightly, the biggest challenge to controlling the fire remains the difficult terrain, officials said.
A dry winter combined with the ongoing effects of the five-year drought that started in 2012 resulted in more dead trees and dry brush and grass, contributing to what seems like an especially sudden and volatile wildfire season.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents along Highway 128 between Monticello Dam and Pleasants Valley Road, south of County Road 23, east of Berryessa Knoxville Road and west of County Road 89.
Evacuation centers were closed in Yolo County when no residents arrived, but they will be reopened if people need places to stay, according to Cal Fire.
More than 2,100 firefighters from 56 crews are out battling the blaze with 18 helicopters, 50 dozers and 187 fire engines.