Two Wildfires Raging into Northern California Lake Communities
Monday, 2 major wildfires have prompted evacuation orders for nearly 20,000 people as they rage to small lake communities in Northern California, and authorities faced questions about how quickly they warned residents about the largest and deadliest blaze burning in the Golden State.
Sunday’s ordered evacuations around twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties, including from the 4,700-resident town of Lakeport, a popular destination for bass anglers and boaters on the shores of Clear Lake, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) North of San Francisco.
The blazes have destroyed 6 homes and threaten 10,000 others. So far, the flames have blackened 87 square miles (225 square kilometers), with minimal containment.
Those fires were among 17 burning across the State, where fire crews are stretched to their limits and beyond.
“We have experienced fires the last four years, and so we’re very aware of what can happen with fires and the damage they can cause,” Lake County Sheriff Lt. Corey Paulich said.
Farther North, police said 5 people were arrested on suspicion of entering areas evacuated due to the explosive wildfire around Redding.
That blaze killed 6 people and destroyed 723 homes. Authorities were also investigating at least 18 reports of missing people, though many of them may simply have failed to check in with friends or family, police said.
Fire officials were hopeful that they could make progress containing the blaze.
The fire that threatened Redding, a city of about 92,000, was ignited by a vehicle problem a week ago about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the city.
Thursday, it swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick, fueled by gusty winds and dry vegetation. It then jumped the Sacramento River and took out subdivisions on the western edge of Redding.
“It wasn’t expected to travel that far that fast,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Mclean said Monday.
The sheriff has said the fire moved fast, but authorities still alerted residents in a variety of ways, including going door-to-door and using loudspeakers on emergency vehicles.
Authorities also use electronic warning systems, including an emergency alert system that is repeated by local news media and an automated calling system that can be targeted to phones within a geographic area. Another method known as the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System can be directed to any cellphone within reach of a particular transmission tower, said Sherry Bartolo, operations manager for the Shasta County dispatch center.
The dispatch center put out more than 18 emergency alerts between Thursday evening and midday Friday, official said.
The center usually has eight dispatchers on duty, but overnight Thursday had at least 12, along with four supervisors and 3 managers who worked through the night, according to the official.
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