Monday, August 20, 2012

Lightning sparks more blazes across the West - Sacramento Bee

Firefighters across the West on Monday kept to the task of battling a summer-long series of raging wildfires, with the latest round sparked mostly by lightning strikes amid dry conditions and gusty winds.

In Northern California, crews struggled to gain control of a rapidly growing wildfire that has destroyed at least seven homes, threatened thousands of others and also forced thousands of rural residents to evacuate.

The Ponderosa Fire, which began Saturday, has consumed more than 23 square miles near three towns about 170 miles north of Sacramento. It was only about 5 percent contained.

It began after the area was hit by a series of lightning strikes, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

More than 1,200 firefighters fought the blaze in rugged, densely forested terrain as it threatened at least 3,500 homes and more than 300 other structures near the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola.

"These are the largest number of homes we've had threatened so far this year, so we're definitely concerned because this fire is so fast-moving," Berlant said. "The grass, brush and timber up here are so dry, and once the lightning with no rain struck, the flames began to spread quickly."

The fire forced the closure of Highway 44 and other roads and prompted the declaration of a state of emergency for Shasta County. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center in Redding.

"We have air tankers, helicopters and bulldozers and hand crews all available to us," Berlant said. "We're using every resource we have to put out this fire."

Evacuee Jerry Nottingham told reporters on Monday that, "All we can do is pray."

Another massive wildfire that has burned in Plumas National Forest since July 29 grew larger over the weekend as strong winds pushed the flames past fire lines on its northeast edge that crews had gained some control of late last week.

The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, has consumed more than 73 square miles and continued to threaten about 900 homes. The fire was 32 percent contained.

Elsewhere in California, a wildfire in Lassen Volcanic National Park was 51 percent contained after consuming more than 43 square miles. Officials expected firefighters would have the blaze contained by Tuesday.

In Mendocino County, a wildfire that started Saturday had consumed about 8 square miles near Covelo. That blaze, which was sparked by lightning, was burning in a remote area of thick timber and rugged terrain, making it difficult for fire crews to access.

The fires in California were among many blazes burning across the West, where wildfire season began much earlier than usual:

- In southwestern Colorado, firefighters were battling several new wildfires sparked by lightning over the weekend. The largest, the Burns Fire - about 12 miles southwest of Pagosa Springs - had grown to 120 acres by Monday. Three ground crews, two single engine air tankers and a heavy tanker are being used to fight the fire. No structures have been threatened.

- In Utah, officials said Monday that a wildfire that has burned 272 acres was likely started by target shooters in Wasatch County - just a short distance from another human-caused blaze that was fully contained after threatening residences near the Jordanelle Reservoir.

The Whiskey Fire remained uncontained and has burned conifer and oak brush near Daniels Canyon, southeast of Heber, said Jason Curry, a state forestry and fire spokesman. The blaze was not threatening any structures. About 150 firefighters and two helicopters were battling the fire, a task made difficult because there are few access roads into the area.

- In Washington state, firefighters hoped to fully contain a wildfire that has burned dozens of homes in Cle Elum, about 75 miles east of Seattle. Crews expected the weather to cooperate for the most part with firefighting efforts. The fire broke out a week ago at a bridge construction project and has burned nearly 36 square miles of grass, sagebrush and timber in rural areas.

- In Idaho, fire managers planned to meet with residents in Pine after an evacuation of Featherville was ordered over the weekend due to smoke from an approaching wildfire.

About 1,100 firefighters battled the Trinity Ridge Fire, which has burned 140 square miles and was threatening hundreds of homes. Thunderstorms were expected and could cause gusty, shifting winds around the fire. A little to the north, Idaho's largest wildfire had burned 143 square miles,

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

• Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.

No comments:

Post a Comment