California wildfire in national forest threatens at least 1,600 homes

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 17, 2014 2:27 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A California wildfire racing through the El Dorado National Forest on Wednesday had grown to threaten more than 1,600 homes, forcing more than 2,000 people to evacuate ahead of the flames, officials said.

The increasing danger from the so-called King Fire came after firefighters battling nearly a dozen major blazes across the drought-parched state managed to halt the advance of another destructive blaze on Tuesday that charred 150 homes in a town near the Oregon border.

The King Fire, which has spread to more than 18,000 acres (7,300 hectares) since it erupted on Saturday in Northern California about 60 miles east of Sacramento, is not yet believed to have destroyed any homes as it burns through timber, mainly in the El Dorado National Forest.

But officials said the fire, burning just north of the community of Pollock Pines, threatened more than 1,600 residences, leading to voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders for more than 2,000 people.

"The fire is expected to be active again today due to expected gusty and erratic winds, mostly from the southwest," officials said on a Facebook information page about the wildfire, which remained at 5 percent contained.

California's fire season, which runs from May to October, is on track to be the most destructive on record, according to state fire managers. A devastating three years of drought in the most populous U.S. state has helped fuel the flames.

North of the King Fire, in the town of Weed near Mount Shasta, residents were mopping up on Wednesday from a fire that broke out two days before and quickly damaged or destroyed more than 150 area homes, officials said.

Police volunteer Mark Merrill said two churches and a sawmill were among the buildings damaged or destroyed in the high-elevation town of 3,000 people, which historically had an economy centered on the logging industry.

Firefighters held the fire away from the town on Tuesday, after it burned 375 acres, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Alyssa Smith.

In addition to the homes burned in that fire, more than 30 others were charred in another blaze near Yosemite, Smith said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)