Pawnee Fire chars 10,500 acres, 5% percent contained

- Wind-driven wildfires destroyed buildings and threatened hundreds of others as they raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.  Fire officials updated the situation Monday evening at a meeting at the Clear Lakes Moose Lodge. They said at least 10,500 acres had burned and that they had reached five percent containment.

Under a cloud of thick smoke and the potential for further devastation, a woman helps her severely ill husband into the emergency Red Cross shelter at Lower Lake High School. 

She says they evacuated their home Saturday in Spring Valley. 

"They said, 'Get out'," said Mona Warren, an evacuee. "My husband is a diabetic. I was able to get one bottle of insulin. When that runs out, I don't know what we'll do." 

She says she doesn't know if their home of 10 years will survive. 

At the Moose Lodge off Highway 20, more between 200 and 300 people, including children, have set up camp or cots. 

Fire officials there said 12 houses have burned and at least 10 outbuildings. 

The Moose Lodge is feeding people three meals a day and helping those evacuated get the services they may need. 

"We have medical people coming by. We have someone who donated air supply for those who need oxygen," said Dennis Alexander, Moose Lodge's governor. 

As the fires burn, Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Lake County due to the effects of the Pawnee Fire.

The Pawnee Fire, which broke out Saturday near the community of Clearlake Oaks in Lake County, has threatens an additional 600 buildings apart from the 22 it has already destroyed. 

Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the Spring Valley area, where about 3,000 people live.

"What we're stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return," state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said. "This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It's a good reminder that fire season is upon us."

Erratic wind and heat gripping a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border drove the flames, which were north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.

Farther north, a fire spanning about three-quarters of a mile in Tehama County destroyed "multiple residential and commercial buildings," Cal Fire said. But firefighters appeared to be making good progress - the Stoll Fire was halfway contained and some evacuees were allowed to return home, authorities said.

A second fire in Tehama County consumed 5.5 square miles, but no buildings were reported burned. The so-called Lane Fire threatened 200 structures and some homes had been evacuated, Cox said. It was 10 percent contained.

A fire in neighboring Shasta County grew to 1.6 square miles and was 20 percent contained. The so-called Creek Fire had damaged no structures but did prompt evacuations.

The cause of each blaze is under investigation. No one was reported hurt.

More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the Pawnee Fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment up close.

"It's kind of the worst possible combination," Cox said.

Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back.

The Pawnee Fire is the third major fire in Lake County in four years. For people here, their fates tied each summer to dry brush and shifting winds. 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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