Wildfire Raging North of San Francisco Threatens Homes

August 2, 2015 Updated: August 2, 2015

LOWER LAKE, Calif.—Wildfires blazing in several Western states Sunday chewed up forests and threatened homes but were most numerous in Northern California where dozens are raging and setting off evacuations.

Wildfires are also burning in Washington and Oregon.

The biggest California wildfire — raging in the Lower Lake area north of San Francisco — spread overnight to cover even more drought-stricken ground.

The fast-moving blaze had charred 71 square miles by Sunday, the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection said.

The fire has destroyed 24 homes and 26 outbuildings and was threatening 5,000 homes.

Many of the California blazes were sparked by lightning.

More than 8,000 firefighters are working to quell the blazes. One firefighter was killed late last week at the scene of a fire 100 miles south of the Oregon border.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for California and activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery.

Burning Hills

The wildfire north of San Francisco has been raging in an area of hills covered in dense brush and oak trees since Wednesday. It is only 5 percent contained.

Cal Fire says an evacuation advisory has been issued affecting 12,000 people in a sweeping region of ranches and small rural communities. Several roads have been closed.

Firefighter Killed

Engine Capt. David Ruhl, from South Dakota, was killed battling a fast-moving blaze that broke out Thursday in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon.

Ruhl was in a vehicle Thursday, looking for ways to fight the blaze, when officials lost contact with him, fire information officer Ken Sandusky said. His body was recovered Friday.

Ruhl, part of a Black Hills National Forest firefighting team, had been helping California firefighters since June.

The fire had grown to about 4.5 acres by Sunday, and it was 5 percent contained.

Lightning Fires

In Humboldt County, 600 firefighters were battling 18 small blazes Sunday that were sparked by lightning. At least 70 fires have been reported in the area since Thursday. Of those, 52 have been contained, Cal Fire said.

The blazes have charred 1,200 acres and destroyed two structures in steep, difficult to access terrain.

Foothills Fires

A woman was arrested in connection with a small fire near Groveland, a stop-off point for travelers headed to Yosemite National Park.

The 200-acre fire, about 20 miles from the park’s entrance, was 80 percent contained Sunday. All evacuations were lifted Saturday and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

Lisa Ann Vilmur was arrested Thursday night on allegations of recklessly causing a fire. She was jailed on $100,000 bail, and it was not known if she has an attorney who could comment.

In a separate foothills blaze northeast of Sacramento, evacuation orders were lifted for residents of 50 homes. The fire, which ignited Saturday, destroyed two homes and burned through more than 3 1/2 square miles but was almost fully contained.