PLACERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire burning for a week in Northern California continued to grow out of control, one of about a dozen big blazes in the drought-stricken state that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate.
There was 5% containment Sunday of the Caldor Fire, which had charred nearly 154 square miles (399 square kilometers) of trees and brush in the northern Sierra Nevada after breaking out Aug. 14. The cause was under investigation.
Firefighters hoped to take advantage of calmer weather and cooler temperatures a day after gusts pushed the fire across U.S. Route 50, threatening more remote communities in El Dorado County.
Erratic winds sent embers flying into tinder-dry fuel beds, starting new ignition points and challenging crews trying to chase down the flames in rugged terrain.
“We know this fire has done things that nobody could have predicted, but that’s how firefighting has been in the state this year,” Eldorado National Forest Supervisor Chief Jeff Marsolais said.
Multiple large wildfires have incinerated at least 700 homes, many in and around the Sierra Nevada communities of Greenville and Grizzly Flats. About 13,000 residences remained under threat in communities tucked away in scenic forests.
The fires have burned roughly 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers) and have sent smoke as far as the East Coast. They were burning in grass, brush and forest that is exceptionally dry from two years of drought likely exacerbated by climate change.
Nine national forests in California have been closed because of the fire threat.
To the northwest of the Caldor Fire, the massive Dixie Fire also kept expanding. In five weeks, the blaze about 175 miles (282 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco became the second-largest in state history and blackened an area twice the size of Los Angeles. It was 37% contained.Firefighters shut down Hwy 50 amid battle to keep Caldor Fire south of highway
An exception was the Cache Fire, a small but fast-moving grass blaze that ravaged at least 56 homes and virtually annihilated a mobile home park.
Some of those forced to flee the flames had to leave their pets behind.
Emily Crum, an animal control officer with North Bay Animal Services, got a surprise as she searched for abandoned pets in the Clearlake area.
She spotted a black dog in a charred lot.
“I saw her laying there. I thought she was dead,” Crum said. “Then she started wagging her tail.”
Despite being chained to a boat trailer, the mutt named Sammy had not been injured, Crum said.
Cats, goats and chickens also were rescued.
California is one of a dozen mostly Western states where 94 large, active fires were burning as of Sunday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Fires have intensified across the entire West, creating a nearly year-round season that has taxed firefighters. Fire patterns used to migrate in seasons from the Southwest to the Rockies, to the Pacific Northwest and then California, allowing fire crews to move from one place to the next, said Anthony Scardina, deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service.
“But the problem is all of those seasons are starting to overlap,” Scardina said.