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Northern California wildfire destroys 10 homes

July 27, 2014

PLYMOUTH, California (AP) — Firefighters in Northern California on Sunday battled a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in the Sierra Nevada foothills, while a fire near Yosemite National Park destroyed one home and grew significantly overnight.

East of Sacramento, the Sand Fire has burned about 3,800 acres (1,540 hectares), roughly 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers), of steep, rugged terrain near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties since Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire, which has also destroyed seven outbuildings, was 35 percent contained Sunday morning, but threatens hundreds of homes, CalFire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said. It could grow again Sunday as firefighters brace for high winds and temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degress Celsius) in the drought-stricken region.

“All of the vegetation in the area is struggling. It’s burning very easily,” Tolmachoff said. “It causes the fire to be a lot hotter and to spread more easily.”

West of Yosemite National Park, a wildfire that began Saturday afternoon quadrupled in size overnight to 2,100 acres (850 hectares), or more than 3 square miles (7.8 square kilometers), and was burning out of control Sunday. It destroyed one home in the small community of Foresta, adjacent to the park, Ranger Scott Gediman said. The park itself remained open.

The Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills has prompted authorities to evacuate about 500 homes and close several roads near the town of Plymouth. Nearly 1,500 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, are working to control the blaze.

CalFire officials say a vehicle that drove over dry vegetation started the fire, which has sent up huge plumes of smoke and worsened air quality in the Sacramento area.

Meanwhile, about 400 firefighters aided by fixed-wing helicopters were battling the flames near Yosemite, Gediman said. The cause wasn’t immediately known.

About 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated. Two shelters were opened for people and animals.

“There have been no injuries so far, which is wonderful,” Gediman said.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open Sunday. None of its treasures were threatened, Gediman said, although some areas were smoky.

The Crane Flat campground and Highway 120, a major highway leading to the park from the San Francisco Bay Area, were closed, but other roads were open. So were hotels and other amenities.

Wildfires also burned in other Western states, including Colorado and Utah. The nation’s largest wildfire, the 618-square-mile (1,600-square kilometer) Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, was 95 percent contained Saturday. Crews in north-central Washington made progress on the 390-square mile (1,010-square kilometer) Carlton Complex wildfire that has burned an estimated 300 homes.


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