Lightning sparks wildfires in Calif.
Hundreds flare in northern areas
SAN FRANCISCO - Hundreds of wildfires sparked by lightning flared yesterday across the heart of wine country and remote forests in Northern California, the latest batch of destructive blazes in the bone-dry state.
One had spread across nearly 6 square miles yesterday after starting the previous afternoon in Napa County and quickly moving into a mostly rural area of Solano County.
The fire threatened more than 100 buildings as it fed on grassy woodland about 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, said Roger Archey, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
It was 35 percent contained yesterday evening and had destroyed one home, officials said. Evacuations were ordered for some residents, said agency spokeswoman Nancy Carniglia.
Californians got some relief yesterday from the triple-digit temperatures that have strained air conditioners and power companies for nearly a week.
Yesterday's temperatures in much of the state were about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the day before. On Saturday, thermometers reached 95 degrees at San Jose, 105 at San Diego, 107 at Burbank, and 107 at San Luis Obispo.
Wildfires have destroyed more than 175 homes in Northern California so far this year. Blazes started popping up in the region just as California's unofficial fire season began in mid-May, following the state's driest two-month period on record.
Two small blazes about 25 miles south of San Jose forced several residents from their homes yesterday. Both were partly contained, and officials said most residents would be let back into their homes by today. Those fires were also attributed to lightning.
Thunderstorms were responsible for as many as 75 fires in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about 160 miles north of Sacramento. They ranged in size from less than an acre to more than a square mile.
None immediately threatened homes, said Forest Service spokesman Michael Odle.
Mendocino County had as many as 90 fires, charring nearly 8 square miles, Cal Fire officials said.
South of San Francisco, a fire that destroyed homes and closed a section of highway was 90 percent contained after charring just less than a square mile. Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, a day after roughly 2,000 people fled their homes.
Along the coast in the Los Padres National Forest, a wildfire burning since Saturday forced 75 homes and businesses to be evacuated. And just miles away, firefighters worked to control a huge fire that has destroyed two homes since it began two weeks ago. It was nearly 60 percent contained after charring 83 square miles.
Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic Lake Tahoe wildfire near California's border with Nevada. The fire destroyed 254 homes, caused $140 million in property damage, and scorched nearly 5 square miles.
Investigators think the fire started with stray embers from an illegal campfire at a popular party spot.