The Latest: Wildfire evacuees begin to trickle back home

AP News
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Posted: Aug 06, 2015 7:01 PM
The Latest: Wildfire evacuees begin to trickle back home

LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) — 3:50 p.m.

Some of the people driven from their homes by a massive Northern California wildfire are being allowed back.

State fire spokeswoman Blanca Mercado says residents of a handful of neighborhoods are being allowed to return Thursday afternoon and authorities hope to allow more in the next 24 hours.

Some 13,000 people have either been ordered or urged to evacuate.

Mercado says more than just the fire itself is preventing people from returning — fire crews are using the sometimes tiny roads to get access to the blaze that has burned more than 100 square miles.

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2:26 p.m.

Residents who fled homes threatened by a massive Northern California wildfire are hoping to check on their possessions soon and find their houses still standing.

It's unclear when they will be able to go home, but evacuees such as Cassandra Raffaelli fear finding out their residences have burned. The 107-square-mile blaze has destroyed 43 homes about 100 miles north of San Francisco and was 40 percent contained Thursday.

In one area, metal chairs, burned books and broken dishes sat in the piles of ashes. At one home, a metal table and chair sat in the middle of the burned-out foundation with nothing else around them.

Authorities have ordered or urged 13,000 people to leave their homes.

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12:15 p.m.

A small grass fire in Montana has destroyed at least two homes and forced the temporary evacuation of an additional two dozen residences.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry tells KGVO-AM (http://bit.ly/1DxaSMG ) that investigators believe a transient is responsible for the fire that started Wednesday in the small northwestern town of Evergreen. Charges are pending.

Curry says the fire burned just 6½ acres, but two or three homes and six to eight outbuildings were destroyed. Deputies evacuated 25 to 30 homes, but Curry says residents had likely returned home by Thursday.

Meanwhile, crews battling a 6-square-mile fire in Montana's Glacier National Park are working along a scenic tourist highway in an effort to reopen it. The Going-to-the-Sun Road has been closed since the blaze began July 21.

It's mostly contained, but firefighting costs have reached $9.7 million.

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11:58 a.m.

A 3-square-mile wildfire in Idaho has charred important habitat for an imperiled bird, but crews stopped it from reaching land critical to the sage grouse.

Fire managers say the lightning-caused blaze about 12 miles north of Glenns Ferry, in south-central Idaho, is in an area between two wildfires from previous years.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management dispatcher Mark Rich says crews stopped the fire from climbing Bennett Mountain, where primary habitat exists for the bird being considered for federal protections.

Several other fires are burning in Idaho, as well as throughout the parched West.

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11:40 a.m.

A big wildfire near the Columbia River in Washington state has grown to 37.5 square miles, but is halfway contained.

Officials say the blaze near the small town of Roosevelt is no longer threatening any homes. The town evacuated when the fire started Tuesday, but people were allowed back in their homes Wednesday.

Fire spokesman Ron Fryer says 275 people are battling the grass fire and hoped to have it fully contained by Saturday.

Fryer says the fire grew quickly because of 20 mph gusts, but winds calmed Thursday.

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11:25 a.m.

California Gov. Jerry Brown visited fire crews fighting a massive blaze, thanking emergency responders, volunteers and hundreds of state prisoners helping on the fire lines.

Brown talked Thursday about how drought-stricken California is hotter and drier than it's ever been, making wildfires more severe and extending the fire season.

The blaze about 100 miles north of San Francisco has charred more than 107 square miles since igniting July 29. It's about 40 percent contained.

With fires raging across the state, Brown said more than $200 million has been spent in the last two years on firefighting equipment and crews.

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11:02 a.m.

Residents of a southern Arizona town watched smoke and flames flaring in mountains overlooking Tucson after a lightning-caused fire tripled in size in steep, rocky terrain.

But officials say the fire burning in grass and brush in the Santa Catalina Mountains doesn't threaten any structures and expected rain should check its growth.

The fire has smoldered since July 29, but exploded in hot, windy weather Wednesday and Thursday.

Officials are monitoring the 500-acre fire ahead of expected rain Friday.

The wildfire is one of many throughout the dry West, including large ones in California and Washington state.

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8:30 a.m.

Days after declaring a state of emergency in response to wildfires across California, Gov. Jerry Brown plans to meet with fire and emergency officials fighting a massive Northern California blaze.

Brown is expected to be briefed Thursday morning on efforts to contain the wildfire about 100 miles north of San Francisco. It has charred 107 square miles and forced thousands of people from their homes.

The fire ignited July 29 and is 40 percent contained as of Thursday morning. Its cause is under investigation.

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7:45 a.m.

Crews are gaining ground against a massive Northern California wildfire, but officials say it will still be several days before evacuees can return to their homes.

Four more homes were destroyed overnight, bringing the total number of properties lost to 43. More than 13,000 people have been ordered or urged to leave their homes since the blaze ignited July 29 about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the wildfire has charred more than 107 square miles of parched terrain and was 40 percent contained Thursday morning.

It is the largest of 23 fires statewide and takes up nearly a third of the 10,000 firefighters dispatched in drought-stricken California.