California wildfires destroy homes and force hundreds to evacuate – Los Angeles Times
Firefighters are battling a 3,000-acre wildfire in Northern California that destroyed at least 175 buildings and forced about 1,400 residents to flee their lake community, authorities said Monday.
The fast-moving Clayton fire broke out late Saturday afternoon off Highway 29 and Clayton Creek Road, forcing the entire community of Lower Lake — located more than 100 miles north of San Francisco — to evacuate, officials said.
Bulldozer operators spent much of Sunday night and Monday morning carving extra wide fire lines along the eastern border of Clearlake in effort to contain the blaze.
Extreme heat combined with the dry brush enabled the fire to grow overnight, burning about 1,400 acres and destroying four homes, according to Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The fire doubled in size Sunday as it reached Main Street in Lower Lake and burned the post office, a winery, a Habitat for Humanity office and several other businesses, according to the Associated Press. Sixteen patients at a hospital in neighboring Clearlake had to be transferred to another facility 25 miles away.
“You can’t imagine what took place,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said Sunday evening. “There was extreme fire behavior and winds that pushed it across the road into structure after structure after structure. We had airplanes dropping retardant, helicopters dropping thousands of gallons of water — trying to get ahead of this.”
McLean said it was impossible to know how many homes and businesses were lost. Fire officials said they would have a better idea of the damage Monday and would offer an update before the afternoon.
Fire officials said Lake County was particularly hard hit by the state’s lingering drought.
“So when a fire ignites they’re able to move rapidly,” Berlant said.
The fire is only 5% contained, said Undersheriff Chris Macedo of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.
The Clayton fire is burning in an area between last year’s Valley, Rock and Jerusalem fires that broke out around the Lower Lake area.
The wildfire is one of several burning throughout California.
The Chimney fire that broke out near Lake Nacimiento in San Luis Obispo County has burned 4,300 acres, destroyed 20 structures and is threatening 150 more, fire officials said Sunday.
Evacuations have taken place in a handful of communities, including Running Deer Ranch and Cal Shasta.
The fire was first reported at about 4 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Running Deer and Chimney Rock roads, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Active through the night, the fire was slowed at about 1 a.m. by air pressure at a higher elevation pushing down and trapping in cooler temperatures, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. This blanket, known as an inversion layer, prevents smoke from rising and decelerates any flames.
Once that inversion layer began to lift Sunday, the Chimney fire increased in activity, prompting officials to bring in additional firefighters and resources from across the region.
Berlant said several hundred fire personnel were on the scene, as well as large air tankers.
“It’s been burning this afternoon at an explosive rate,” he said.
The fire was 10% contained.
Farther south, the Soberanes fire, a deadly blaze burning north of Big Sur, has wiped out nearly 60 homes, burned more than 72,000 acres and claimed the life of a bulldozer operator.
Cal Fire officials said the fire, which was started by an illegal campfire, was 60% contained.
The wildfires underscore the elevated risks Southern California faces as it endures yet another summer heat wave, which forecasters say will continue until Wednesday.
The combination of very hot, dry and windy conditions increases the potential for wildfires in the mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, as well as in the foothills in Antelope Valley, said Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Several Southland communities saw triple-digit temperatures over the weekend, including Van Nuys, Chatsworth and Palm Springs. On Sunday, temperatures hit 104 in Woodland Hills and 111 in Thermal.
Times staff writer Cindy Carcamo contributed this report.
9:10 a.m.: This article was updated with new details from fire officials.
This article was originally published at 5 a.m.