BUTTE COUNTY (CBS / AP) – Erratic winds fanned a Northern California wildfire that threatened more than 300 structures Monday, but the hundreds who evacuated from homes over the weekend were allowed to return as containment lines expanded.
State fire officials said in a statement that while the fire remained a threat to some homes and buildings, most of those who were told to evacuate could now return home.
Besides wind, firefighters battling the 3-square-mile fire just outside Bangor, in rural Butte County, were concerned about dry lightning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Scott McLean said.
Firefighters had the blaze, burning some 60 miles north of Sacramento, 64 percent contained. So far, one residence, a garage and three outbuildings have been destroyed since the fire broke out Friday, McLean said.
The goal was to have the fire fully contained by Thursday, McLean said. About 900 firefighters were targeting the northwest and southeast sections of the blaze Monday.
“Those are the hot spots. That’s where a lot of our work will be taking place today,” McLean said. “If we can tackle those opposing corners and get those two dealt with, we will have made some significant progress.”
The Butte County fire was among 10 significant blazes in the state, and there was potential for more. CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said there have been 25,400 lightning strikes in California as firefighters remain on high alert.
In Kern County, authorities began issuing voluntary evacuation warnings Monday for about 400 homes near a growing wildfire in the Sierra Nevada.
County and U.S. Forest Service crews were battling the 400- to 500-acre blaze a mile or two from the communities of Slick Rock and Alta Sierra. Fire officials said so far the flames were running downhill, pushed by gusty winds.
Yet another wildfire forced the shutdown of a highway that serves as a busy gateway to Yosemite National Park.
The Forest Service said in a statement that two days after it broke out in the Stanislaus National Forest, the blaze crossed State Route 120 on Monday, shutting it down in both directions. No westbound traffic was being allowed out of Yosemite, and people trying to get in were being told to use State Route 140 and State Route 41.
Officials said some camps in the area were being evacuated and some structures have been lost, but did not say how many or what the structures were. The blaze had burned some 800 acres since it broke out on Saturday.
Throughout Northern California, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for coastal counties stretching from Mendocino to Monterey due to gusty winds and dangerous fire conditions. A fire weather watch also was in effect Monday for the Northern California mountains and foothills.
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