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Northern California wildfire’s rapid growth is slowed overnight

The rapid pace of the massive King fire in Northern California slowed overnight Thursday thanks to cooler, cloudier conditions, officials reported.

The fire, which has forced the evacuation of more than 2,800 people since it ignited Saturday, grew just over 5,000 acres to 76,376 acres, or 119 square miles. Lower temperatures and sparse sprinkles kept the fire under control, said Lynn Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It was pretty mellow overnight,” Tolmachoff said.

More than 7,600 firefighters continue to battle nine major wildfires in California, most of them in the northern part of the state, according to a Cal Fire update posted Friday.

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But officials consider the King fire the most dangerous after it doubled in size overnight Wednesday to about 114 square miles, becoming California’s second largest wildfire this year in a matter of hours.

And despite the overnight respite, higher temperatures on Friday amid clear skies and light wind could potentially accelerate the fire’s growth, Tolmachoff said. More than 4,400 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is just 10% contained and threatens about 12,000 homes in the nearby community of Pollock Pines.

Officials attributed the fire’s rapid growth in El Dorado National Forest to extremely dry, dense vegetation. The forest also hasn’t seen a significant fire since 1992.

Cal Fire Unit Chief Mike Kaslin told reporters Thursday that firefighters were “literally setting a world record with respect to retardant drops” on the fire.

Extreme and erratic conditions had also forced a dozen firefighters to run for a safe zone, where they deployed their fire shelters to protect themselves from oncoming flames. All 12 were evacuated safely by helicopter, Kaslin said.

Wayne Huntsman, 37, was arrested this week on suspicion of deliberately setting the King fire and was being held in lieu of $10-million bail.

He was arrested in Placerville after investigators interviewed numerous people and developed multiple leads, officials said Thursday.


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