Hundreds evacuate from 2 California wildfires

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2014 1:21 AM
Hundreds evacuate from 2 California wildfires

OAKHURST, Calif. (AP) — Two out-of-control wildfires in California forced hundreds of residents to flee from their homes on Sunday, including one near a lakeside resort town that has burned 21 structures, authorities said.

The blaze, sparked shortly after 1:30 p.m. near Bass Lake in Central California, prompted authorities to evacuate about 1,000 residents out of 400 homes, Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said flames damaged or destroyed 21 structures. The Fresno Bee reports one neighborhood was hit especially hard, with several homes turned to ash and smoldering embers.

"This is gut-wrenching," CalFire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson told the newspaper. "It makes you sick."

The fire started off a road outside of Oakhurst, a foothill community south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park, and made a run to the edge of Bass Lake. Stoked by winds, it quickly charred at least 320 acres, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The fire is 20 percent contained.

The area is a popular destination throughout the year. There were no reports of the blaze affecting the park.

"We have a lot of full-time residents as well as renters and people with vacation homes here," Stuart said.

The destructive fire led Gov. Jerry Brown to secure a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 percent of the cost of fighting the fire, state officials said.

Further north, a wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced the evacuation of 133 homes. El Dorado County Sheriff's officials said residents of another 406 homes were being told to prepare to flee.

Berlant said the blaze started in a remote area Saturday, but exploded on Sunday when it reached a canyon full of thick, dry brush. It has blackened 4 square miles, and was 10 percent contained.

Meanwhile in Southern California, evacuation orders for 200 homes in Orange County's Silverado Canyon were lifted late Sunday as firefighters contained 50 percent of a wildfire.

The residents were evacuated after the fire broke out Friday. The U.S. Forest Service downgraded the fire's size from 2 ½ square miles to 1 ½ square miles due to better mapping of the blaze.

Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries, many of them heat-related as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures.

A heat wave was expected to last through Tuesday in Southern California, and a smoke advisory was in effect for parts of Riverside and Orange counties.

Berlant said crews were making progress on two wildfires that broke out Saturday in Northern California.

A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills about halfway between Sacramento and Reno burned 250 acres, destroyed two homes and three outbuildings. The burned homes were in Alta Sierra, a community of some 6,000 people about five miles south of Grass Valley.

A 417-acre blaze in Mendocino County destroyed five structures and five outbuildings, according to CalFire. It was 50 percent contained.