California fires prompt evacuations as they explode in size and threaten homes

Map showing location of Branch fire in San Luis Obispo County
The Branch fire in San Luis Obispo County grew to nearly 3,000 acres on Tuesday evening, threatening structures in the rural area.
(Los Angeles Times)

Residents in a rural area of San Luis Obispo County have been evacuated as a brush fire exploded and burned at least one structure Tuesday afternoon.

The Branch fire was initially reported as a 40-acre brush fire in the area off of Highway 58 and Soda Lake Road in the California Valley at about 2 p.m. By 9 p.m., the fire was nearly 3,000 acres and 30% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Additional structures and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power lines are threatened, Cal Fire officials said.


Residents in the area surrounding Belmont Trail have been evacuated, and a part of Highway 58 has been closed, according to San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials.

In Northern California, the Gold fire, which has been burning for a week near Highway 139 and County Road A-2, has grown to almost 22,000 acres and is 65% contained.

Several roads near the fire are closed, and fire officials have ordered multiple evacuations in the area.

The fire “continues to burn in areas that include private residences as well as ranch and commercial operations. Several cultural and sensitive resources remain threatened,” Cal Fire said in an incident report.

Firefighters in Lassen County have also made progress in containing the Hog fire, which also led to road closures and evacuations near the Hog Flat Reservoir, west of Susanville. The nearly 10,000-acre fire is now 72% contained, Cal Fire officials said.

The evacuation orders and road closures have since been lifted, but the area is still under an evacuation warning. Officials say changing weather conditions could lead to another evacuation order for the area at any time.