Local firefighters battle blazes across California | TheUnion.com

Local firefighters battle blazes across California

Twenty firefighters from Nevada County were helping to battle two wildland blazes in other parts of California on Thursday as the fire season gets into full swing.

No major fires were reported here, however.

“We’ve been fortunate,” said Spike Newby, operations chief for the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. “We had a trailer fire in the town of Washington, but they managed to contain it.”

Other areas weren’t so lucky, and 18 firefighters from Nevada County were dispatched to a blaze on the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California and two more to a major fire near Chico.

The red flag fire conditions of high winds and low humidity were predicted to end this morning, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

But the temperature is expected to climb into the 90s for the weekend and the humidity is not expected to rebound much, meaning extreme fire danger will still exist in parched Nevada County.

Residents are urged to call the county’s burn day number at 274-7928 before burning any brush piles that could easily get away.

Smoke from the Butte County blaze could drift into Nevada County today, the Grass Valley Interagency Fire Center said Thursday.

In Butte County, several hundred homes were evacuated ahead the wildfire near Chico. The blaze, which started around noon Wednesday, had grown to 8,000 acres and threatened about 1,650 structures.

“We’ve had very active winds, low humidity and high heat. As you know, that’s a recipe for disaster,” said a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Butte County to free up additional firefighting resources. He declared another one in Santa Cruz County early Thursday.

“We are mobilizing and coordinating all of the resources necessary to fight these fires,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Erratic wind gusts have surprised firefighters who were overrun by flames.

Three firefighters were burned near Lincoln, about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, when they were caught in a 65-acre grass fire burning in a dry rice field.

All three were taken to the University of California, Davis Medical Center regional burn center. Two of them had moderate to severe burns to their faces and arms.

The burn center was also treating a firefighter who was severely burned Tuesday while trying to protect a mobile home near a wind-blown grass fire southeast of Sacramento.

The fast-moving wildfire in the Bonny Doon community in Santa Cruz County had grown to 700 acres and was only 5 percent contained Thursday. It was unclear how many structures had been damaged, fire officials said.

About 500 residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes in the heavily forested hills about 10 miles northwest of Santa Cruz since the fire broke out Wednesday. Voluntary evacuations were in place for another 1,000 residents.

Farther south, the state’s largest wildfire had charred about 17,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest and was only 16 percent contained.

The fire had spread east to a remote part of the Army’s Fort Hunter Liggett base and was also moving toward the incident command post Thursday morning. But winds were driving the flames away from inhabited areas of the military base, said a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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