CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. -- Wind-driven wildfires destroyed buildings and threatened hundreds of others as they raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake County due to the Pawnee Fire, which has grown to 8,200 acres. The fire which broke out Saturday near the community of Clearlake Oaks, has destroyed 22 buildings and threatened an additional 600. As of Monday, there was no containment. Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the Spring Valley area, where about 3,000 people live.
"Overnight we saw the winds kind of shift from a northwest direction to a direct west direction, so that's pushing the fire east," said CAL FIRE Captain Jordan Motta.
"Now while there are still homes to the east of the fire, what's also out there are burn scars from past fires such as the Walker Fire, which happened about five years ago. If the fire continues towards that area of the burn scars, the fuels are a lot less dense from where the fire is now. So, it will really help us contain the fire" said Motta.
No injuries or deaths have been reported in the Pawnee Fire.
A Red Cross shelter for evacuees is set up at Lower Lake High School. "What we're stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return," state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said. "This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It's a good reminder that fire season is upon us."
Erratic wind and heat gripping a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border drove the flames, which were north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.
Farther north, a fire spanning about three-quarters of a mile in Tehama County destroyed "multiple residential and commercial buildings," Cal Fire said. But firefighters appeared to be making good progress - the Stoll Fire was halfway contained and some evacuees were allowed to return home, authorities said.
A second fire in Tehama County consumed 5.5 square miles (14 square kilometers), but no buildings were reported burned. The so-called Lane Fire threatened 200 structures and some homes had been evacuated, Cox said. It was 10 percent contained.
A fire in neighboring Shasta County grew to 1.6 square miles (4.14 sq. kilometers) and was 20 percent contained. The so-called Creek Fire had damaged no structures but did prompt evacuations.
The cause of each blaze was under investigation Sunday. No one was reported hurt.
More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the Pawnee Fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment up close.
"It's kind of the worst possible combination," Cox said.
Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back.
EVACUATION ORDERS AND RESOURCES
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the entire Spring Valley subdivision of Clearlake Oaks, Cal Fire said. The latest evacuation information can be found here.
Around 4 p.m. Sunday, officials expanded the mandatory evacuation area past Highway 20 to the north and east of Old Long Valley Road to Round Ball Road. The areas include Mule Skinner, Long Branch, Watertrough Road, Fintlock, Muzzleloader, No Guns, Antelope, Cougar, Marianne, Ramrod, and Moccasin.
Some residents only escaped with the clothing on their backs. Luckily a family ABC7 News talked to was able to get their cat out of their home as well.
Officials say to please remember your pets, personal belongings, computers, prescriptions, photos, paperwork, and phones if time allows. Please try to close all windows and doors as well when you evacuatee.
An evacuation center has been established at Lower Lake High School, located at 9430 Lake Street. The Red Cross is gearing up to handle up to 300 evacuees.
Sheriff Martin added that there is an alternative evacuation site at the Moose Lodge, which is located at the junction of Highway 53 and Highway 20. The lodge, which has a bar, restaurant, and can handle animals, is very popular with locals when fires break out.
Officials are encouraging anyone in the area to conserve water so that firefighters can use it to fight the fast-growing blaze.
There are multiple road closures in and around the Spring Valley subdivision. More than 20 engines have been dispatched to contain the blaze, as well as two helicopters and several air tankers. The fire is being driven by low relative humidity, strong winds, Cal Fire said.
Click here for more information on Brown's state of emergency.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency in NorCal's Lake County due to raging fire
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