Drought-fueled Rocky Fire explodes to 62,000 acres

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Tensions mounted Monday night as the state's biggest wildfire continues to spread through drought-stricken territory just north of the Bay Area. (KGO-TV )

Tensions mounted Monday night as the state's biggest wildfire continues to spread through drought-stricken territory just north of the Bay Area.

Dry conditions have helped the Rocky Fire in Lake, Colusa and Yolo counties advance in ways that have been described as historic and unprecedented.

PHOTOS: Smoke from Lower Lake area wildfire seen for miles


The fire jumped north across Highway 20 and there is an aggressive battle underway to keep it from spreading to two nearby communities. Thirteen thousand people have been forced from their homes, or advised to leave. According to Cal Fire, the blaze has now blackened 62,000 acres and is only 12 percent contained.

It's destroyed at least 24 homes and 26 other structures, and that does not include any structures that may have been destroyed Monday afternoon.

"Containment has been difficult," said one Cal Fire firefighter.


Cal Fire's goal had been to contain the fire behind Highway 20, but the winds took over Monday afternoon and flames jumped the road in two places and burned 100 acres.

"This area has not burned on record before, so the vegetation in some of these areas is very dense," said Cal Fire spokesman Brice Bennett.

Firefighters say the fire is a product of the drought and is behaving in ways they have never seen before.

"It's unpredictable. It built its own weather," said Cal Fire Capt. Steve Kaufman. "On Saturday night, in the middle of the night, between 9 and midnight, it grew about 20,000 acres in the span of about five hours. We don't normally see fire at nighttime grow that spectacular. It's hard for me to speculate what to expect because we're dealing with conditions we've never seen before."


The Rocky Fire has closed a popular hunting spot. With deer season opening Saturday, the Knoxville wildlife area is closed to all public use until further notice. People in Spring Valley and the Double Eagle Housing Development could also be in danger if the flames north of Highway 20 get out of hand.

For much of the afternoon Monday, air and ground crews have been engaged in a coordinated fight against the Rocky Fire.

South of the fire, nearly 40 people checked into the Red Cross shelter in Middletown Sunday night when evacuation areas were expanded. Some evacuees have been camping out for several days.

Jerri Driver, her husband and her two-week-old foster baby were able to evacuate from their Jerusalem Valley home last week.

"We don't know how long we're going to be out here. We call every day to see if we can go back and everyday and they tell us every day, not yet," Driver said.

They set up her mobile camper with free power and water hooks ups thanks to the Hidden Valley Lake Community Association.

Kaleena Salsedo evacuated with her parents and seven pets. It's a challenge to be here so long because the animals are used to running round on their property.

"Yeah, we packed up all our stuff, packed our animals and we had to go because we saw the flames coming, so we were like, yeah we're not going to stay here any longer," Salsedo said.

At the Hidden Valley Lake Equestrian Center, the stables have become one of the areas most popular livestock evacuation spots. One of the largest groups of animals are 17 alpacas. They were brought in from the Jerusalem Grade area.

"The alpacas came to us Wednesday night in the middle of the night and we've been housing them since then. And their owners have not contacted us," said Jill Scott of the Hidden Valley Lake Equestrian Center.

The alpacas were brought to the site along with two goats. The equestrian center employees have been caring for and feeding the whole group. They hope to make contact with the owners soon, otherwise they will have to get foster homes.

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS

Jerusalem Valley area east of Soda Creek, Bonham Road, Quarter Horse Lane, Mustang Court, Bronco Court, Sunset Court, Morgan Valley east of Bonham Road, Canyon Road, June Bug Road, Cambell Ranch Road, Sloan Ranch Road, Sky High Ranch Road, Rocky Creek Road, Dam Road from the gate to the dam, Grizzly Canyon, Long Branch Drive, Lance Road, Cougar Road, Red Rocks, Meridian Road, Antelope Road, Mule Skinner Road, Flint Look Place, Moccasin Road, Roundball Road, Watertrough Road, Grigsby Canyon, Lucky Canyon, Remington Canyon, Walker Ridge, Walker Ridge Road, No Guns Road, Meriann Drive, Bear Valley Road from Highway 20 to Wilbur Springs Road, Wilbur Springs Road and Morgan Valley Road X Butte Creek Road, Ogulin County Road and Spring Valley, Paradise Canyon, New Long Valley Road, Old Long Valley Road, Salt Canyon, Indian Hill Road, Flaming Hills Lane, Benmore Canyon, Red Rock Road, Red Rock Court, Round Mountain Road North West of Highway 22, Fern Way, Juniper Way, Holly Way, Golden Red Way, Shasta Road, Cougar Road, Jeep Trail, Smith Lane, Pueblo Trail, Quail Trail, Ogulin Canyon Road, Meadow Creek Road, Cache Creek Road, Wolf Creek Road, Spring Valley Road, Riverview Road, Rocky Ridge, Chalk Mountain Road, Lakeview Campground, Cache Creek Winery, Noggle Winery, Elm Way, Dogwood, Cedar, Blue Berry, Acacia Way, Acacia Street, Doe Trail, Madrone Way, Peach Way, Quince Way, Redwood Way, Sequoia Way, Tamarack Way, Weeping Willow Way, Yucca Way, Coyote Way, Elk Way and Fox Way.

ADVISORY EVACUATIONS

All areas including east of Hwy 29 at Raita Road east of Hwy 53 north to Hwy 20, Clear Lake area east of Highway 53 from Dam Road to Highway 20, Spruce Grove Road, Noble Ranch Road, Black Bass Pass, Jerusalem Valley area west of Soda Creek, Double Eagle Ranch, Homes along Hwy 20 corridor between New Long Valley Road and east of the county line, Spruce Grove Road to intersection of Jerusalem Grade, Lake Ridge, Highway 53 west to Sulphur Bank Road along Highway 20.

EVACUATION CENTERS

Middletown High School, Kelseyville High School

An animal evacuation center is opened at the Lower Lake Social Services parking lot, 15975 Anderson Ranch Parkway, Lower Lake.

ROAD CLOSURES

Jerusalem Valley Road is closed to all traffic at Spruce Grove Road, Highway 20 corridor will be closed from New Long Valley Road to Highway 53, both directions of Ogulin County Road and Highway 16 is closed from Highway 20 to the Yolo County Line.

Related Topics:
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