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Residents flee fire

More than 400 acres burned Sunday near Colfax and 150 homes were evacuated.

The fire, named the Steven’s Fire, billowed smoke above Nevada County for much of Sunday afternoon and evening.

The blaze, which burned one mile southeast from Interstate 80, was reported at 1:36 p.m. by a hiker in the canyon, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.



It was expected to burn through the night.

Firefighters were holding the flames at Dusty and Saw Mill roads Sunday at 8 p.m., but a containment percentage was not available at the time.




Colfax resident Jerry Mullins was at the Cape View bar, which overlooks the canyon, when the blaze broke out.

“A wisp of smoke is all we saw then,” Mullins said. “We thought someone was burning trash.”

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire was not seen from any look-out tower for about 10 minutes after it was reported. It started growing slowly but exploded at about 5 p.m. to 60 acres, then 100, and finally reached 220 by 8 p.m.

By 6 p.m., the Cape View bar was the base of operations for CDF and a large crowd of sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers, as well as onlookers gathered to survey the smokey sight.

A thick plume of smoke rose into the sky, with at least 10 helicopters, air tankers and spotter airplanes flying in and out of the smoke. Periodically, flames were clearly visible from one mile away, coming from a steep hillside in the canyon.

Smoke from the blaze could be seen from as far away as Sacramento International Airport and the town of Williams, at the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 20, 104 miles from Colfax.

Most of the burned areas were fields rich with manzanita bushes, although one outbuilding had burned to the ground at 7 p.m. A Union Pacific railroad line on the hillside was also shut down. At 8 p.m., traffic was still flowing down Interstate 80.

More than 200 firefighters fought the blaze Sunday evening. Agencies involved included those from Nevada, Placer, Yuba, Butte, Sierra, Sacramento, Solano, Lassen, Modoc, El Dorado and Amador counties, as well as those from the Tahoe area. The U.S. Forest Service joined in as well.

The Steven’s Fire was named so because it started at the head of that trail in the American River Canyon.

By the numbers

400 acres

150 homes evacuated

1 outbuilding lost

400 firefighters working

85 fire engines in use

2 injuries: one firefighter suffered a broken leg, and another was treated for heat exhaustion.

Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.


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