Wind-driven fires destroy 50 homes in Northern California

Wind-driven fires destroy 50 homes inNorthern California

12June 2008

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Three state firefighters are injured north of Sacramento when they are overtaken by whipped-up flames.

SACRAMENTO — — Wind-blown fires have destroyed more than 50 homes, burned thousands of acres and on Wednesday overran three firefighters who suffered burns.

A grass fire near Lincoln, about 30 miles northeast of the state capital, consumed 65 acres of brush, but reversed direction amid the shifting winds and blazed toward a fire crew working the edges.

Two firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection suffered moderate to severe burns on their arms and faces and were transferred to UC Davis Medical Center’s burn unit, while a third was treated and released, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the state fire agency.

“Both have their families with them, are in good spirits and are talking,” Berlant said. “It definitely looks very positive” for recovery.

The incident marked the second time in two days that firefighters had been overrun by flames. On Tuesday, a Sacramento fire captain suffered second- and third-degree burns battling a grass fire and had to be hospitalized.

The National Weather Service predicted gusty conditions across the Central Valley through this afternoon. In response, authorities braced for a third day of trouble from the siege of wind and fire.

More than 30 homes were destroyed in a fast-moving grass fire that jumped into a Stockton neighborhood Tuesday, and 21 residences were gutted and 500 residents evacuated during a Butte County blaze that scorched 1,600 acres and continued to burn Wednesday evening.

A second fire erupted shortly after noon Wednesday in Butte County east of Chico. Scores of homeowners were evacuated as the flames threatened 250 structures and spread across 3,500 acres by early evening in Stillson Canyon, fire officials said.

Also, a house and three cars were destroyed Wednesday by a grass fire near Vacaville. All 10 residents of the home escaped safely.

“It is a fairly swift start to fire season, especially in the north,” said Alisha Herring, a forestry department spokeswoman. “But based on the low humidity and high winds and fuel conditions, it’s not unexpected. The wind can just pick up a fire and move it.”

Despite gusts of up to 40 mph, state and local firefighters got the upper hand Wednesday on some of the Northern California blazes. They expected full containment of a 1,200-acre blaze in Tuolumne County, as well as a fire in Sonoma County that blackened more than 860 acres.

Meanwhile, a blaze in Los Padres National Forest west of King City scorched 10,800 acres and continued to burn virtually unimpeded, with 13% of it contained.

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