CAL FIRE: Wildfire in Lake County destroys hundreds of structures

LOWER LAKE, Calif. -- Firefighters are battling a raging wildfire that CAL FIRE officials say has destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate the Lower Lake area of Lake County.

The following schools will be closed in the Konocti Unified School District due to fire activity: Lower Lake High, Lower Lake Elementary, Carle, Konocti Education Center, Burns Valley, Pomona, East Lake and Clearlake Creativity Center.

PHOTOS: Massive wildfire forces evacuations in Lake County

Firefighters are calling this the Clayton Fire because it started near Clayton Creek Road. It started Saturday and crews seemed to have a handle on it until it blew up this afternoon, quickly taking over the town of Lower Lake.

"In a matter of 20 to 30 minutes you look around you and there's black smoke and flames that are 30 feet tall and 12 different spots around you," said Billy Caldwell, Lake County resident.

Lake County resident Jay Jakubowski is using water from his pool to put out hot spots on his property. Earlier, he and his son used the pool as shelter from the oncoming flames.

"How long were you in the pool?" asked ABC7's Lilian Kim.

"Just about 15-20 minutes or so, it got intense, smoke and the fire. It was blowing for a while here," said Jakubowski.

At least 4,000 people are under evacuation orders. But Leo Negrete and his son are among those who defied those orders, choosing to fight for their property instead. They hosed down the house and so far so good.

RELATED: Lake County wildfire prompts mandatory evacuations

"If this thing burned, where am I going to live? I know I can rebuild again but you know, we see a little chance, we take it," said Negrete.

But so many other homeowners weren't so lucky. Flames destroyed homes in the neighborhoods along Main Street and Morgan Valley Road, not to mention businesses in the heart of Lower Lake. Fortunately, the historic Lower Lake schoolhouse museum sustained no damage, and neither did the post office.

Still, lake county residents aren't sure how much more they can take after three major wildfires last year.

"People are scared. We went through this, we had the Valley Fire which was devastating to a lot of people in this area and seeing this again it brings up a lot of mixed emotions," said Ben Lovato, town postmaster.

A power outage has closed the Clearlake Highland Senior Center as an evacuation center. Residents are being advised to go evacuation centers located at:

Kelseyville High School - 5480 Main Street, Kelseyville

Twin Pine Casino - 22223 Hwy 29, Middletown

Seventh Day Adventist Church - 3500 Hill Road E. Lakeport

Highway 53 is open to all traffic between Olympic Dr. and Highway 20; however, it remains closed between Olympic Dr. and Highway 29.

A town hall will take place Monday night in Middletown about the fire.

For those wanting to donate items to the evacuation centers, they are not accepting donations at this time. Information concerning where monetary donations will accepted will be forthcoming.

Click here for full coverage on last year's Valley Fire.

PHOTOS: Crews battle massive 2015 Valley Fire

ABC7 News contributed to this story.
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