Firefighters make progress on three NorCal wildfires
KYBURZ, Calif. (AP) – Firefighters were holding three wildfires in Northern California in check Friday as the state entered the peak of fire season, officials said.
Two wildfires that burned more than 17,000 acres in the Eldorado National Forest were still burning and were each about one-third contained, fire officials said. The fires closed two major trans-Sierra highways and kept residents from their homes in tiny Northern California mountain communities.
A third fire northeast of San Francisco, which had burned 39,000 acres as of Friday, was expected to be contained by the weekend.
CDF spokeswoman Karen Terrill said the weather forecast called for rain this weekend “and rain on a wildfire is always a good thing.”
Still, she said, the end of October has traditionally been when the worst fires have broken out. The devastating Oakland Hills fire broke out on Oct. 19, 1991 and last year’s wildfires in Southern California, which ultimately consumed 750,000 acres, started on Oct. 21.
Fires have charred more than 171,000 acres as of last week – before the three current fires started – which is about 70,000 acres more than an average year, Terrill said.
“It’s been an extraordinary fire season already, and if history repeats, the worst of it is still ahead,” she said.
About this time of year, California starts to see dry and gusty north winds, which can fan a spark into a major fire in minutes, she said.
Californians need to remember that “just because the days are shorter and it doesn’t feel as hot, we still have plenty of conditions for fires,” she said.
The Fred fire in El Dorado County had burned 5,000 acres of timber and brush in the northern part of the forest between Ice House Reservoir and Kyburz, destroying a couple outbuildings and shutting down U.S. Highway 50, a main link between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe.
Firefighters had the fire 30 percent contained Friday, said Lane Siebenthal, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
“We’re starting to make good progress, but Highway 50 is still closed and probably will remain so through the whole day,” he said.
Residents of Kyburz and Silver Fork, two communities of about 150 summer cabins on the South Fork of the American River, remained evacuated.
South of that fire, crews were trying to gain control of a 12,500-acre blaze that closed a section of state Highway 88. The Power fire was 35 percent contained Friday, Terrill said.
The Power fire, burning in the southern Eldorado National Forest and named for a nearby hydroelectric powerhouse, was not expected to be contained until Oct. 23 because of a heavy concentration of dead trees and brush.
That fire is located 17 miles east of Pioneer, between Bear River Reservoir and Salt Springs Reservoir.
Winds had abated and temperatures had dropped Friday, helping firefighters on the 39,138-acre Rumsey fire burning in Napa and Yolo counties northeast of San Francisco, said CDF spokesman Jim Mortensen. Officials reopened state Highway 16, and the only structure lost was an old fire lookout that was built in 1949, he said.
About 2,100 firefighters battled the fire near Lake Berryessa, Terrill said. The blaze was 80 percent contained as of Friday morning.
On Thursday, fire officials lifted a voluntary evacuation order for Lake Berryessa Estates, a community of 75 near the lake’s northwest shore.
On the Net:
California forestry department: http://www.fire.ca.gov/cdf/incidents/index.html
National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/