New wildfires grow in Northern California as firefighters gain ground against big blaze in the south

Big new wildfires challenged California firefighters Tuesday even as they increased containment of earlier blazes that erupted as dry north winds arrived over the weekend.

Evacuations were ordered after the Aero Fire erupted Monday and spread over more than 8 square miles near Copperopolis, a small community in Calaveras County, about 100 miles east of San Francisco in the state’s historic Gold Country region.

Authorities set up three evacuation centers, but the number of evacuees was unknown.

Three structures were destroyed and one was damaged, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. A decrease in winds and a rise in relative humidity overnight helped firefighters gain 20% containment.

The Aero Fire is among the latest blazes to erupt in California in a matter of days as a quiet start to fire season suddenly became active, with flames consuming drying grasses and brush encouraged by back-to-back wet winters. Most of the fires have been kept small, but a handful have charred thousands of acres.

In the northern Central Valley, a blaze dubbed the Sites Fire erupted Monday afternoon and spread over nearly 16 square miles of rural Colusa County about 105 miles north of San Francisco. There was no containment as of Tuesday morning.

In an optimistic development, remaining red flag warnings for fire weather conditions in the Central Valley were expected to expire by midday, the National Weather Service said.

In the mountains of northern Los Angeles County, the size of the 4-day-old Post Fire was unchanged at just over 24 square miles, and containment increased overnight to 24%.

"Control lines were tested with wind gusts of up to 40 mph, and poor relative humidity recovery," the fire command’s morning update said.

Firefighters were building and reinforcing fire control lines and protecting infrastructure such as power facilities, oil lines and recreational areas.

One commercial property has been destroyed, and one injury has been reported.

Firefighters were focused on the fire’s southern edge near Pyramid Lake, a popular boating destination that was closed as a precaution on Sunday and Monday.

Kenichi Haskett, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said firefighters would be ferried across the water to prevent flames from reaching the lake’s northern side.

Red flag conditions, meaning an increased risk of fire danger, were expected to continue there until late afternoon, forecasters said.

In Sonoma County, the 3-day-old Point Fire was 40% contained and remained at less than 2 square miles in size due to favorable firefighting conditions, Cal Fire said. Two structures have been destroyed, and one injury has been reported.

About 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the nearly 2-square-mile Hesperia Fire was 86% contained. The fire erupted Saturday and forced road closures and evacuation warnings in San Bernardino County.