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NorCal wildfires threaten homes

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POSTED August 11, 2014 7:06 p.m.

ETNA (AP) — Fire crews braced for more erratic winds on Monday from nearby thunderstorms as they tried to gain ground on two wildfires that were threatening nearly 750 rural homes on national forest land in Northern California.

The two fires threatening homes in the Klamath National Forest had burned through nearly 25 square miles of dry timber near the community of Etna in Siskiyou County.

Crews were getting a handle on the smaller of the two fires, which was responsible for most of the threatened homes, fire spokesman Richard Hadley said. It was 25 percent contained. But the second blaze burning about 8 miles away was fueled Sunday by gusty winds from a nearby storm system that sent flames up the steep canyons. It was 4 percent contained.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for about half a dozen homes. The other threatened homes were under an evacuation advisory. The fires were also threatening 46 commercial structures. The causes of the fires, which broke out late last month, were under investigation.

Much of Northern California remained under a red flag warning through Tuesday night, with additional lightning strikes expected. Hadley said lightning was not predicted over the two Klamath fires on Monday, but wind gusts up to 30 mph would give firefighters trouble.

“We are anticipating a pretty active fire day again,” he said.

Meanwhile, crews were anticipating the possibility of more lightning strikes while battling a lightning-sparked wildfire in Mendocino County about 200 miles southwest of the Klamath blazes. The fire near Laytonville had burned through nearly 15 square miles and was threatening nearly 60 structures. Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place.

There have been more than 800 reported lightning strikes across Northern California that led to 34 more confirmed fires since Sunday, state fire spokesman Dennis Mathisen said Monday.

However, those new fires totaled less than 1 square mile, Mathisen added.

“We hope the lightning activity doesn’t produce any new larger fires,” he said. “Typically, 95 percent of wildfires are caused by human activity, but when they’re caused by Mother Nature, there’s nothing you can do except to be prepared and try to keep them as small as possible.”

Elsewhere in the West, rescuers escorted to safety 19 hikers trapped on Sunday by a wildfire atop Saddle Mountain State Park near Seaside, Oregon.

And in Idaho, firefighters made progress against the state’s largest wildfire, which had burned 101 square miles on the Idaho side of the Snake River near the Oregon and Washington border. The fire was nearly 50 percent contained, though crews were expecting triple-digit temperatures and gusty winds later in the week that could pose problems.

 

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