CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. (AP/CBS13) — A wind-driven wildfire destroyed a dozen buildings and threatened hundreds of others Sunday as it raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.
The Pawnee Fire, which broke out Saturday near the small community of Clearlake Oaks, was one of four wildfires burning in largely rural areas as wind and heat gripped a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border.
Sheriff Brian L. Martin, Director of Emergency Services, issued a proclamation of local emergency as a result of the Pawnee Fire in Clearlake Oaks. An evacuation center has been established at Lower Lake High School for impacted residents. The center is being staffed by American Red Cross as well as representatives from the Lake County Department of Social Services.
Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the residential area of Spring Valley and surrounding areas. Evacuation centers for residents and animals were being opened. No injuries were reported.
The blaze destroyed 12 buildings and threatened an additional 600 as it burned out of control across about 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers). It is north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.
“What we’re stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said.
“This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It’s a good reminder that fire season is upon us,” he said.
Another blaze consumed 5.5 square miles in nearby Tehama County but did not burn any buildings. Some homes were threatened and some had been evacuated, Cox said, although he did not have specific numbers. It was partially contained.
Another smaller fire, also in Tehama County, was nearly halfway contained after consuming less than a mile of brush. The fourth fire, in neighboring Shasta County, smaller still, was three-fourths contained.
The Pawnee Fire was being driven by erratic winds, low humidity and high temperatures. Firefighters battled it in a rugged area that made it difficult to get engines and other equipment up close.
“It’s kind of the worst possible combination,” Cox said.
Fire officials had no estimate on when it might be contained and didn’t yet know what caused it.
Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back.
More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the blaze.