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‘Red flag warnings of high winds, low humidity for NorCal fire crews

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POSTED September 10, 2012 12:56 a.m.

UKIAH (AP) — A change in the weather was making things more difficult for the thousands of firefighters who were struggling to contain a series of wildfires burning across California, fire officials said Sunday.

In Northern California, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning for a wide area of the region through Sunday evening, with forecasters saying wind gusts could hit 40 miles per hour and humidity levels would drop.

There are nine major fires burning throughout the state, with a relatively new fire, one that started Friday, threatening about 300 homes outside of Ukiah, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Daniel Berlant.

The Scotts fire, which has consumed about five square miles, remains about a mile away from homes, but those homes are directly in the path of the blaze, Berlant said.

Meanwhile, about 75 miles to the southeast, the 1,300 firefighters battling a massive wildfire burning across two counties have the blaze 80 percent contained. Officials expect to have the Sixteen Complex fire surrounded Monday, as long as the change in the weather doesn’t help the blaze spread.

“The fire did not grow overnight,” Berlant said. “As long as the winds don’t hamper our efforts we expect to have that fire contained Monday.”

The wildfire, which is actually two separate fires burning within a few miles of each other in Colusa and Yolo counties, has consumed 28 square miles since it started on Sept. 4.

No structures have been destroyed or damaged in the fire, and an evacuation advisory for the nearby Cortina Indian Rancheria has been lifted, allowing residents to return home.

Highway 16 has been reopened, but a smoke advisory is in effect because of decreased visibility in the area because of the smoke from the blaze.

Also in Northern California, a blaze that’s been burning since Aug. 18 near the tiny Mendocino County community of Covelo is now 89 per cent contained, with officials expecting to have it contained Monday evening.

“It’s hot and dry still,” said fire spokesman Matt Corelli. “But the good thing is that not a lot of fire is near containment lines.”

That fire has scorched more than 65 square miles, destroyed 26 structures and damaged four others, officials said.

In Southern California, a wildfire burning in rugged areas of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles is expected to be fully contained by Thursday.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire was 83 percent contained Sunday after burning 6 ½ square miles.

The fire broke out over Labor Day weekend, driving thousands of visitors from the Angeles National Forest and keeping out thousands more. A few dozen residents from the forest had to evacuate, but were allowed back to their homes late last week.

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