News Column

Lightning Ignites More California Wild Fires

August 1, 2014

Associated Press

A plane drops a load of fire retardant in rugged California terrain (AP)
A plane drops a load of fire retardant in rugged California terrain (AP)

ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) Firefighters in Northern California were battling several lightning-sparked wildfires on Friday, including a blaze in rural Modoc County that forced the evacuation of about 120 people.

The fire near the community of Day had burned through nearly 11 square miles of brush and heavy timber and was threatening 200 structures on Friday, two days after it began. It was only 5 percent contained.

Officials were expected to send additional fire crews to supplement the 700 or so firefighters battling the blaze, which is burning in steep terrain, said state fire spokesman Dennis Mathisen.

"It's a challenging firefight due to the extreme fire conditions we're experiencing," Mathisen said.

California is in its third year of drought, which has heightened the fire danger. The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services announced on Friday that it has asked the state's National Guard to activate specially-trained helicopter units to help fire agencies.

"The forward deployment of these will help incident commanders and the personnel they are directing save lives, homes and personal property as well as valuable watershed by providing critical resources within a moment's notice," California emergency services Director Mark Ghilarducci said in a statement.

The fire in Modoc was among more than 40 that have broken out as a result of lightning strikes since Wednesday. Most were in remote areas and were not threatening homes, and many of them were quickly contained.

Fire crews battling a blaze in Yosemite National Park, meanwhile, were expected to lift the last remaining evacuation orders affecting about 50 homes later on Friday.

The fire was burning close to one of the park's three treasured stands of giant sequoia trees, and officials said crews were trying shore up containment lines on that section of the blaze.

The fire had burned through 6 1/2 square miles and destroyed a home and a duplex. It was 58 percent contained.

The park remained open and was largely unaffected.

Fire crews also were battling a blaze in Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that was burning close to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a popular recreation spot that supplies drinking water.

Crews were trying to finish containment lines on the section of the blaze near the reservoir on Friday, said fire spokesman Matthew Chambers.

The blaze had burned through nearly 13 square miles and was 15 percent contained.

The causes of the Yosemite and Sierra fires were not known.

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Original headline: Lightning sparks dozens of new California fires



Source: Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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