USA — The enormous King fire burning in a forest region east of Sacramento has continued to grow, fire officials said.
The week-old blaze in Eldorado National Forest grew to 81,944 acres and was 10% contained as of Saturday evening, said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. Nearly 5,100 firefighters were battling the fire, he said.
Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated from the area, and 21,000 structures remain threatened by the blaze, which started Sept. 13. Four firefighters have sustained minor injuries since the fire began, McLean said.
On Saturday, ground crews worked to strengthen containment lines around the fire to limit further spread of the flames. Teams fanned out to assess damage to the structures that had been burned.
The fire’s spread is “expected to be minimal” overnight, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which is jointly managing firefighting efforts in the area, along with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Higher humidity is expected to help tame the spread of the blaze.
Warm temperatures, low humidity and forests full of extremely dry trees — the result of serious drought conditions — have contributed to the fire’s severity, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Clapp, who was onsite at the blaze, said possible thunderstorms in the area late Saturday could pose a threat to firefighters, creating winds that could strengthen the fire.
Additionally, he said, meteorologists were watching closely to see whether shifting weather patterns early next week would generate winds similar to those present last week when the fire spread quickly.
Also last week, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s office arrested 37-year-old Wayne Huntsman on suspicion of deliberately starting the blaze. He was arrested in Placerville after investigators interviewed numerous people and developed multiple leads, El Dorado County Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson told reporters Thursday.
Officials have not released details on how they believe the fire was started, citing the ongoing investigation.