|Firefighters worked on the Wye Fire east of Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Sunday, August 12, 2012. Photo by Jackson Waldo.|
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE FIRE.
CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. – Firefighters have achieved some containment on two major wildland fires burning east of Clearlake Oaks, with one of the fires destroying three structures.
On Monday Cal Fire said the Wye Fire, which began near the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 53, was at 3,000 acres – dialed back from a 5,000-acre estimate the agency gave on Sunday – with firefighters getting 25 percent containment on the fire.
While the Wye Fire’s acreage estimate was reduced, the Walker Fire, burning near Walker Ridge Road, increased to 2,000 acres, with 30 percent containment, Cal Fire said.
The Walker Fire had resulted in evacuations in the Wilbur Hot Springs area, which straddles the Lake and Colusa county lines, according to the agency.
“Both fires continue to be very active this morning,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told Lake County News.
The Wye Fire is still threatening homes and ranches in Spring Valley, according to Cal Fire, where evacuations were remaining in effect.
Cal Fire said 480 residents from Spring Valley, as well as the Old Long Valley Road and New Long Valley Road areas, were evacuated Sunday night.
Two structures were destroyed and one was damaged, but Berlant said he had not been able to confirm their exact location or whether or not they were residences or outbuildings.
There had been concerns that if the wind shifted it could push the fire toward Clearlake, but Berlant said the fire is continuing to move in the opposite direction from the city.
Cal Fire reported that it was dealing with challenging fire behavior on the Wye incident, along with low reality humidity, very high temperatures and erratic winds.
On Monday firefighting personnel were focusing efforts on building fire containment lines, firing operations and structure defense.
Berlant said the incident command post was set up at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street in Lakeport.
At about 10 a.m. Caltrans reported that Highway 20 east of Highway 53 had reopened, but within a half hour it was being ordered to be closed again due to traffic issues, including people trying to go down New Long Valley Road into Spring Valley.
“The fire is actually on (Highway) 20 right now,” said Berlant, adding that motorists were being asked to find alternate routes.
Reports from the scene also indicated that firing operations would be taking place, making the highway closure necessary.
California Highway Patrol Officer Joe Wind said the agency had been asked to close the highway down, with Cal Fire estimating that the firing operations would be done and the roadway could be reopened at around 3 p.m. Monday.
“All that can change, though,” Wind added.
With the exception of just a few households, “Everyone has been evacuated out of the Spring Valley area,” said Pam Plank, Red Cross’ Lake County disaster coordinator.
Those few residents remaining are being assisted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol, Plank said.
Red Cross has an emergency shelter set up at Highlands Senior Center, located at 3245 Bowers Ave., in Clearlake. There also is an evacuation center set up at the Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, where people with large animals can stop in and get assistance, she said.
However, so far there is not a switchboard community members can call to locate loved ones, she said.
Plank had reported on Sunday night receiving about 250 evacuees from the area.
Several CHP units were on the scene of the fire on Sunday, helping get people safely out of the area, said Wind.
“They were assisting with evacuation procedures and the closure and everything else,” he said.
Berlant said Cal Fire is working to find out the cause of the incidents.
“We have investigators who are on the scene of both fires,” he said.
However, with Sunday in the triple digits, coupled with incredibly dry vegetation, it presented “perfect conditions for fires,” Berlant said.
Also on Monday, Lake County Air Quality Management District issued an alert, warning that air quality is expected to be seriously degraded as the fires continue to burn, with forecasted winds adding to the serious conditions.
Cal Fire said there were 324 personnel on the fire Monday, along with 44 engines, eight fire crews, seven bulldozers, two airtankers and four helicopters.
Cooperating agencies include Cal Fire, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, CHP, Caltrans, Pacific Gas & Electric, Red Cross, Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.
Email Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com .