Wildfires raging in northern California

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Updated: 8/04/2014 12:59 pm

BURNEY, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters were focusing on two wildfires near each other in northern California that together have burned through more than 100 square miles of terrain — one of which was menacing a small town and prompted the evacuation of a long-term care hospital.

The Shasta County sheriff had Burney on an evacuation watch after ordering residents of three small neighboring communities to leave on Saturday night. The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said more than 700 residences were threatened.

The two fires, among 14 burning in the state, started within a day of each other in Lassen National Forest and had expanded into private property. About 102 square miles had been scorched as of late Sunday night, up from 39 square miles a day earlier.

Burney was threatened by the more destructive of the two, prompting officials at Mayer Memorial Hospital to evacuate their 49-bed annex for patients with dementia and other conditions requiring skilled nursing. The patients were transferred to a hospital in Redding, about 55 miles away, the hospital reported on its website.

Authorities reported that eight homes had burned.

Evacuations also remained in effect for a community on the edge of the second fire, which was sparked by lightning Wednesday. About 40 homes were at risk, officials said.

State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Dennis Mathisen said Sunday that the two fires were burning through timber and brush left parched by the state's extended drought. He predicted that the coming week promises not to be any easier.

"Today we are looking at slightly cooler temperatures, but Northern California continues to be hot and dry and breezy in some areas, and in fact we are looking at a fire weather watch going into effect Monday morning for a large portion of Northern and northeast California and possible thunderstorms, which could mean more lightning," he said.

The number of fires led California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency Saturday. His proclamation said the circumstances and magnitude of the wildfires are beyond the control of any single local government and will require the combined forces of regions to combat.

Siskiyou County, which borders Oregon, also was contending with two major fires, both started by lightning last week. One of them, which began in Oregon, threatened hundreds of structures and charred nearly 58 square miles in both states as of late Sunday, including 14 square miles on the California side. It burned three homes and other structures, and evacuations remained in place for several neighborhoods in both states.

Federal fire officials said that along with working to protect homes, one of their priorities was to safeguard a water station that supplies the city of Yreka. Brown secured a federal grant to cover 75 percent of the cost to fight the blaze.

Meanwhile, federal officials asked residents in two communities southwest of Yreka to start preparing to evacuate because of advancing flames from a cluster of blazes that had charred 8.6 square miles by Sunday.

Evacuation orders were lifted in Modoc County near the community of Day, where a lightning-sparked blaze that started Wednesday had torched 20 square miles.

In Washington state, a wildfire that started during a lightning storm Saturday night burned several structures, authorities said. North of that blaze, firefighters contained another wildfire that started Friday and burned six to eight homes.


©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Stellah Belair - 8/4/2014 7:12 PM
0 Votes
I'm in Elko NV but am from northern CA so try to keep up with the news from up there. I am disappointed that these small towns and the other fires in Washington have no names .... what's with that? It might help the public process the info a little better if the reporter could name the towns the fires are near or even where the structures burned.

getinvolved - 8/4/2014 12:38 PM
0 Votes
We were camping between Old Station and Burney on Friday when our campground, and others, were forced to evacuate due to the Eiler fire. The column of smoke and ash reached altitudes of 20,000 feet and we could clearly see the columns from our fallback position at Eagle Lake. On Thursday this fire started, and on Friday morning it had spread slightly. By Friday mid day it had quadrupled in size and looked very angry. Firefighters who alerted us to a potential evacuation said they had no available resources to engage it and it would continue to burn and expand explosively.

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