Cooler Weather Helps Crews Battling California Wildfire

LOWER LAKE, Calif. (AP) -

Cooler weather helped crews build a buffer Monday between a raging Northern California wildfire and some of the thousands of homes it threatened as it tore through drought-withered brush that hadn’t burned in years.

At least two dozen homes were destroyed over the past few days, and more than 13,000 people were urged to flee.

The fire — the largest blaze in drought-stricken California — roughly tripled in size over the weekend to 93 square miles, generating its own winds that fanned the flames and reduced thousands of acres of manzanita shrubs and other brush to barren land in hours.

The fire was burning in the Lower Lake area, about 100 miles north of San Francisco and 10 miles from Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake entirely within California and a popular spot for boaters and campers. Fire officials said no homes around the lake were threatened.

Lower temperatures and higher humidity Monday allowed firefighters to contain more of the fire, said CalFire Capt. Don Camp.

“We are hoping we only have to deal with winds from the weather instead of the fire creating its own winds,” he said.

Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington state and Oregon took off as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the West Coast combustible. California blazes killed a firefighter last week and injured four others over the weekend.

Crews in the Lower Lake area conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect some of 5,500 homes threatened. The fire was burning in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills.

The fire destroyed at least 24 homes and 26 outbuildings. More than 13,000 people have been forced from their homes or have been warned to leave.

More fire crews were brought in, bringing the number of firefighters to nearly 3,000. Two more National Guard air tankers were being brought in from Colorado to drop retardant, Tolmachoff said.

Crews battled 20 other wildfires in California — some sparked by lightning — though none as big as the Lower Lake blaze.