Most Calif. fires contained; stubborn blazes left

July 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Cooler weather has allowed fire crews to corral most of the wildfires across California, but a handful of stubborn, hard-to-reach mountain blazes Saturday were still keeping residents from their homes. Firefighters were trying to stop a fire in the Shasta Trinity National Forest from spreading to the rural town of Junction City, where an evacuation order was issued for some residents on Friday.

"Overall we're seeing the conditions stabilize," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jason Kirchner said. "The only problem with that in Northern California is, it's stabilized into hot, dry conditions."

Mandatory evacuations remained Saturday for areas of Junction City because of a wildfire that has charred nearly 82 square miles in the far northern part of the state. The blaze was 45 percent contained.

All but 38 of the more than 2,000 fires sparked after a lighting storm on June 20 have been extinguished around the state, leaving nearly 1,413 square miles of destruction in what officials say is the largest fire event in California history.

So far this year, a total of 1,447 square miles have burned, a staggering amount of land so early in the fire season. Fires consumed roughly 1,563 square miles in all of 2007, Kirchner said.

Authorities say most of California's remaining fires are on remote federal forest lands that are harder to contain because of drier, windier conditions at higher elevations.

Residents in the town of Hyampom and near Dry Lake were ordered to stay away from their homes as flames from another blaze continued to spread. That fire has burned more than 17 square miles and was 50 percent contained.

In the hilly range flanking the Big Sur coast, a fire that has swept over 200 square miles of heavily forested land was 70 percent contained Saturday.

Most nearby residents have been allowed to return home, but some cabins are still being kept empty until fire crews finish a controlled burn designed to clear fuel from the path of the fire. The blaze has destroyed 27 homes and 34 other buildings.

A wildfire still burning in Butte County has been 85 percent contained after forcing 10,000 people from their homes and causing one death. Fifty homes and 10 outbuildings were destroyed and 86 square miles of terrain burned.
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