A wind-driven wildfire tore through rural Lake County in Northern California over the weekend, scorching 7,700 acres, prompting evacuations and destroying a dozen structures by Sunday afternoon while threatening hundreds more.
Residents of roughly 600 homes in the remote area were ordered to pack up and leave. Those who stayed behind were urged to limit their water usage so it could be conserved for firefighting.
Authorities ordered all of the small community of Spring Valley to evacuate Saturday evening, and on Sunday expanded the order to include residents who live north of Highway 20 between Old Long Valley Road and Round Ball Road, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
An air tanker drops retardant on a wildfire burning above the Spring Lakes community near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.(Noah Berger / Associated Press)
Firefighter Richard Cotter hoses down hot spots near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.(Noah Berger / Associated Press)
The Pawnee fire burns in the Spring Valley area, northeast of Clearlake Oaks in Lake County, California.(Jonathan Cox / California Department of Forestry)
An inmate crew battles a wildfire in Spring Valley, Calif.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee)
A wind-driven wildfire threatened homes as it raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Associated Press)
A structure leveled by a wildfire rests in a clearing on Wolf Creek Road near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.(Noah Berger / Associated Press)
Kevin Clark helps to protect his brother’s store as a wildfire burns and surrounds the area in Spring Valley, Calif.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Associated Press)
Cal Fire battles a wildfire in Spring Valley, Calif.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Associated Press)
A vehicle scorched by a wildfire rests in a clearing on Wolf Creek Road near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.(Noah Berger / Associated Press)
Dubbed the Pawnee fire, it was one of several fires burning in the region, where a red flag warning was in effect. The fire erupted shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday northeast of Clearlake Oaks in Lake County, roughly 70 miles north of Napa. Firefighters faced triple-digit heat as the blaze burned through steep, mountainous terrain covered by thick brush.
“Right now, there’s fire burning actively in the hills behind all these homes,” Capt. Jordan Motta of Cal Fire said late Sunday. “There’s fire right up to people’s homes around here.”
It’s unclear how many, if any, of the dozen destroyed structures were homes.
The blaze more than doubled Sunday afternoon when an onshore flow brought cooler temperatures and stronger winds from the Bay Area, at times gusting at up to 20 mph.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” said Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Sacramento, adding that winds were expected to subside after 10 p.m. “We need those winds to die down.”
Two water-dropping helicopters helped douse flames, allowing firefighters on the ground to get closer to the fire’s edge and attack flames directly.
More than 230 firefighters responded to the blaze.
Sheriff’s officials reminded residents who are evacuating to pack pets, phones and computers, prescriptions, photos and paperwork and urged residents to close their doors and windows before leaving. A shelter was opened at Lower Lake High School at 9430 Lake St.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
8:45 p.m.: This article was updated with an updated acreage figure and new information.
This article was originally published at 5:15 p.m.