Northern California Wildfire Destroys 13 Homes

Firefighters in Northern California made progress Sunday against a wildfire that has destroyed 13 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in the Sierra Nevada foothills, while a fire near Yosemite National Park that destroyed one home grew significantly overnight.

East of Sacramento, the Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills has burned roughly 6 square miles of steep, rugged terrain near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties since Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire, which also destroyed 38 outbuildings, was 50 percent contained Sunday night, but 515 homes remained at risk and under evacuation orders, a CalFire statement said.

Fire crews were able to significantly increase their containment lines but "the steep, dry terrain continues to be a challenge," a CalFire said.

About 1,900 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, were working to control the blaze.

CalFire officials say the fire started Friday when a vehicle drove over dry vegetation.

Alfred Shults, his wife, Carolyn, and their granddaughter fled their home in El Dorado County on Friday after receiving an automated telephone call ordering residents to evacuate, according to the Sacramento Bee. Before he left, Shults said he packed as much as he could into his vehicle and turned on a sprinkler to soak the area around his beloved motorcycle.

"We just wanted to get out of there, and hope there's something left when we get back," Alfred Shults, 65, told the Bee on Saturday as they waited for news at an evacuation center in Placerville.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that began Saturday west of Yosemite National Park quadrupled in size overnight to more than 3 square miles. It destroyed one home in the small community of Foresta, adjacent to the park, Ranger Scott Gediman said.

An estimated 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated Saturday, and residents remained out of their homes Sunday. Two shelters opened for people and animals.

"There have been no injuries so far, which is wonderful," Gediman said.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open throughout Sunday. None of its treasures were threatened, Gediman said, although some areas were smoky.

About 400 firefighters, aided by fixed-wing helicopters, battled the flames, Gediman said. The cause wasn't immediately known.

Wildfires also burned in other Western states, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

The nation's largest wildfire — the 618-square-mile Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, 45 miles northeast of Burns — remained at 95 percent contained on Sunday. Incident reports from the fire say containment lines continue hold as crews monitor increased fire activity.

In north-central Washington, the nearly 400-square-mile Carlton Complex fire, the biggest in the state's history, continued to burn Sunday in rising temperatures, but no major flare-ups have been reported.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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