The Latest: Some Central California fire evacuations lifted

AP News
Posted: Sep 16, 2015 2:10 PM

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — The latest on wildfires raging in drought-stricken California (all times local):

11:05 a.m.

Authorities have lifted mandatory wildfire evacuation orders for dozens of residents in the small Central California communities of Goodmill and Crabtree, east of Fresno.

California's largest active wildfire has charred 218 square miles of grass, brush and timber since it was sparked by lightning July 31.

But for the first time in more than six weeks, firefighters are getting a handle on the blaze that now has flames simmering in places. It was 67 percent contained Wednesday.

The fire also has moved away from the Sierra Nevada's Giant Sequoia trees, some of which are 3,000 years old.

Fresno County is about 300 miles southeast of where another massive fire is raging in Lake County in Northern California


9:15 a.m.

Fire crews are gaining ground against a fire in the Gold Rush country of the Sierra Nevada foothills that has destroyed more than 400 homes and structures.

The blaze in Amador and Calaveras Counties has charred more than 110 square miles and was 45 percent contained on Wednesday. It is still threatening another 6,400 structures.

Forecasters say the area could see some rain Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the fire in Fresno County was more than two-thirds contained Wednesday, more than six weeks after the blaze was sparked by lightning.

It has charred about 218 square miles. Containment is at 67 percent. That fire is about 300 miles southeast of the fire raging in Middletown in Northern California.

8 a.m.

Authorities have arrested at least two suspects with burned out safes in their vehicles as they investigate reports of looting in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfire.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat ( ) reports Wednesday that Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said he didn't have further details about the arrests.

He said deputies are unable to stand guard at individual homes. He characterized Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake as most vulnerable because that's where the most homes were left standing while residents remained evacuated.

Police are being diligent about trying to protect homes.

Dozens of California Highway Patrol officers and law enforcement officers from outside agencies patrolled in Hidden Valley Lake, where an estimated 100 homes were lost and residents remained evacuated.

7:25 a.m.

Fire crews are gaining ground against a devastating Northern California fire that has destroyed hundreds of homes.

Cal Fire says the blaze in Lake County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, was 30 percent contained Wednesday morning.

The wildfire, which started Saturday, has charred more than 109 square miles and destroyed at least 585 homes. Nine thousand more structures are threatened.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. But the San Francisco Chronicle reports ( officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spent Tuesday surveying a burned-out shed next to a two-story home.

The house was unscathed, but the fire had charred a hill south of the home after possibly igniting in or near the small shed, which was charred and blackened on one side, the newspaper reports.


7 a.m.

A 69-year-old man whose home was destroyed in the fire raging in Northern California has been reported missing by his family.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports ( that authorities said Leonard Neft's burned car was found Tuesday evening on the route he would have taken to try to escape. He lived in the small town of Anderson Springs and his house was destroyed.

Neft, a former police reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, last spoke with his family on Saturday evening, as the fires swept through the area.

His wife, Adela Neft, told the paper she repeatedly called her husband Saturday to tell him to leave, but he said he didn't think the fire was coming toward him. He was alone in the home. Authorities say cadaver dogs will be sent in to search.