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Update: New Bay Area fires break out over weekend

Larger burns further north now closer to contained

Flames rise around an outbuilding as the County Fire burns in Guinda, California.
Flames rise around an outbuilding as the County Fire burns in Guinda, California.
Photo by AP Photo/Noah Berger

Update: After a long weekend pushing back on the County Fire, which is now in its second week and over 90,000 acres in size, Cal Fire reported Monday that the blaze is now some 73 percent contained, nearly doubling reported progress from Friday.

At the same time, new fires erupted across the state, including two in the East Bay, though those are relatively sedate by comparison and Cal Fire is already reporting steady progress on one.

The County Fire conflagration is now limited to Yolo and Napa counties, and Cal Fire hopes to achieve full containment by Wednesday. So far, inspectors have recorded 16 buildings in the affected area destroyed and three damaged.

Some evacuation orders in nearby towns have been lifted, but others are still in effect. Here are the most recent instructions as of Monday morning:

Mandatory Evacuations: West of State Highway 16, to Berryessa Knoxville Road, South of Old County Road 40, and North of County Road 53.

West of State Highway 16 to the Yolo/ Lake County Line, North of County Road 40, and South of the Yolo County line.

Evacuations Lifted: Along the Eastern shore of Lake Berryessa, East to the Napa/Yolo County Line, North of State Highway 128, and South of the intersection of East Side Road and Knoxville Berryessa Road.

This includes residences served by East Side Road, South of Knoxville Berryessa Road.

Meanwhile, the now 35,000-acre Klamathon Fire in Sikiyou County, near the Oregon border, started over the weekend, diverting attention further north.

Smaller blazes broke out nearer to the Bay Area, including the Grant Fire burning near I580 in Alameda County, estimated to be relatively small at 500 acres on Monday, but only 20 percent contained as of Cal Fire’s most recent report.

The smaller Bruce Fire, located east of San Ramon, is now almost entirely contained at 56 acres. No evacuation orders have been handed down, and no structures are yet in danger.

Update: Friday morning, Cal Fire reported containment of the County Fire at 37 percent, but the blaze has continued to grow, now estimated at more than 88,000 acres.

The department also extended its previous estimate of complete containment on July 10—which of course is not a hard commitment anyway, since this is fire we’re talking about here—to now reflect a hope of having the giant burn in hand by July 12 instead.

Previously, there were no reports of casualties or buildings destroyed despite the fire’s proportions.

However, in a press release, Cal Fire specifies, “Damage Inspection Teams have begun to survey areas where fire activity has diminished” and that “the number of damaged and destroyed structures reflected may change as teams continue.”

Right now the count is nine structures lost.

Mandatory evacuations orders are still in effect for “West of State Highway 16, to Berryessa Knoxville Road, South of Old County Road 40, and North of County Road 53” and for “West of State Highway 16 to the Yolo/ Lake County Line, North of County Road 40, and South of the Yolo County line.”

Another fire broke out on Friday in Mendocino County, but state agencies report that it’s already mostly under control. The Pawnee Fire in Lake County, about to enter its third week, is now more than 90 percent contained.

In the first six months of 2018, Cal Fire responded to 2,626 fires. The five-year average for te same period is 2,365.

On top of that, 2018’s fires are more than twice the size of the usual fire season; the five year average for January through the end of June affected just under 24,000 acres, but this year’s burns spread over more than 53,000.

Note that Cal Fire does not respond to every wildfire. Adding in Forest Service responses, for example, the figure for 2018 jumps to more than 3,000 incidents.

The County Fire—an enormous conflagration that began last Saturday in Yolo County, but quickly spread to Lake and Napa counties as well—continued to burn mostly without containment throughout Fourth of July, and Cal Fire now says it doesn’t expect to have the blaze under control until next week.

According to a Thursday press release, Cal Fire projects 100 percent containment of the County Fire by July 10.

Of course, it goes without saying that fire is not an element to be scheduled, and this represents only the department’s best possible projection given presently anticipated conditions—but it’s a grim picture nevertheless.

Presently, fire crews have the County Fire 30 percent contained. The incident page for the burn estimates that it now covers some 86,000 acres, growing more than 40 percent since Tuesday despite the efforts of nearly 3,500 personnel assigned to it.

Despite the fire’s size, the state still reports no injuries and no structures damaged, although it does list nearly 1,000 buildings as “threatened.” The National Weather Service predicts that in nearby Santa Rosa and Sacramento the next few days will be fairly hot but with relatively mellow winds, which may help firefighting efforts.

Earlier this week, the Sacramento Bee noted that fire season seems to be starting early this year; August normally marks the beginning of the most dangerous time, with last year’s hellish Santa Rosa burns sparking in October.

“Already this year, Cal Fire has responded to 2,626 fires. That’s about 260 more than at the same time a year ago,” the Bee reports.

Since we’re only comparing two years, that could be a statistical blip. But the U.S. Drought Monitor reports very dry conditions throughout Northern California, including “moderate drought” in the areas affected by recent fires, which certainly isn’t helping.

Cal Fire is addressing eight active fires in Northern California, including the Pawnee Fire also in Lake County, which has yet to be contained.