A fire that started Thursday afternoon in rural Tehama County in Northern California quickly grew to 6,500 acres as it burned through brush and oak woodlands about 25 miles west of Red Bluff.
By Friday morning, the fire was only 5% contained with evacuation orders and road closures in place, officials said.
The Red Bank fire, which officials determined was caused by lightning, is burning in a remote area mostly used for cattle ranching, headed northwest toward Platina, said Dave Doughty, fire information officer with Tehama County Fire. On Friday, Doughty said he believed an evacuation center had been set up in a nearby park for residents of the sparsely populated area.
At 1:25 p.m. Thursday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that the fire covered 20 acres. By 6 p.m., the fire had grown substantially and was close to, if it hadn’t already, creating a pyrocumulus cloud capable of creating its own weather, Doughty said.
Fire officials ordered mandatory evacuations from the start of Pettyjohn Road to the U.S. Forest Service land boundary, and for the Red Bank Oaks subdivision and the R Wild Horse Ranch, Doughty said.
About 650 firefighters were assigned to the fire and working their way through rough terrain without many roads to access the fire. About six air tankers had also been assigned, Doughty said.
The Red Bank fire was one of several that broke out this week across Northern California.
Lightning storms had moved through the region overnight, sparking 24 small fires discovered Thursday in the western portion of the 2.2-million-acre Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the largest national forest in the state.
Helicopters, air tankers, and fire crews and engines had responded throughout the area to control the various blazes, and smokejumpers landed at some of the most remote fires to assess size and strategy.
Carol Underhill, a public affairs officer at Shasta-Trinity National Forest, said that as of Thursday evening, none of the lightning fires were threatening structures or close to any communities. Forest officials were closely watching the Red Bank fire, as it was burning close to the Shasta-Trinity boundary.
“Our No. 1 priority is protecting safety, life and structures, so each basically is prioritized on how close they are to structures, people’s homes and highways,” Underhill said. “All those things are taken into consideration.”
To the southeast, the Walker fire had started Wednesday in the Plumas National Forest and had grown to 1,800 acres by late Thursday, fueled by afternoon thunderstorms that caused spotting, according to the forest. It was 5% contained as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
The fire was burning in the Genesee Valley southeast of Taylorsville and, because of its rapid growth and erratic behavior, had prompted evacuations in the Genesee Valley Road corridor, as well as Ward Creek Road.
In Klamath National Forest, a night of thunderstorms caused more than 25 lightning fires ranging in size from one-tenth of an acre to 5 acres.
“Resources are on scene or responding to all of these fires,” a forest official said in an update. “Some of these fires are not confirmed and we are working to confirm them. Air resources continue to perform reconnaissance flights over the forest.”
Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.