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Mount Diablo Wildfire Doubles In Size As Nearby Residents Flee

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An aerial view of the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. (R. Drew)

An aerial view of the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. (R. Drew)

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CLAYTON (KCBS/KPIX 5) — A wildfire burning in Mount Diablo State Park grew to six square miles Monday, more than doubling in size over the 24-hour period since it broke out, forcing more people to leave their homes and leading to a smoke advisory for area residents.

“We’re calling it 3,718 acres and 20 percent contained,” Cal Fire Capt. Steve Kaufmann told KCBS. He indicated that over 700 firefighters were on the fire lines working around the clock in 90-degree heat, saying that the hot temperatures along with wind gusts were fueling the fire’s spread in the steep and rugged terrain along the slopes of Mount Diablo.

Flames from the Morgan Fire threatened 100 homes in a sparsely populated area of Contra Costa County, which is dotted with animal pens and shooting ranges. It was first reported around 1:10 p.m. Sunday off of Morgan Territory Road, southeast of Clayton.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered along Oak Hill Lane and Curry Canyon Road and in the Curry Point area, according to county officials. Twenty-four homes on Trail Ride, Russelmann Park, East Trail, Upper Trail and Lower Trail roads were evacuated too. The Clayton Community Library at 6125 Clayton Rd. was acting as an evacuation center for the fleeing residents.

The Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch was designated as an evacuation center for livestock, including horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. Officials said residents with large animals could also take them to the Equestrian Center of Walnut Creek at Heather Farm Park, located at 390 N. San Carlos Road.

The fire was also threatening electrical transmission lines, communications infrastructure, and a historic lookout and visitor center at the top of Mount Diablo. So far, a communication shed that houses electrical equipment and an outbuilding were destroyed – but no other structures had been damaged.

The fire spewed a plume of smoke visible for miles, prompting the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issued a smoke advisory Monday for parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

The air district said smoke from the fire appeared to be moving towards the south and it advised residents in the potential path of the smoke to stay inside, close windows and doors and set air-conditioning units and ventilation systems to re-circulate indoor air. Elderly people, children and those with respiratory illnesses were told to be particularly careful.

Aircraft, including helicopters and air tankers, were deployed Monday to help fight the fire from the air, Kaufmann said. The tankers, which flew in from Palmdale, were refueling out of Merced.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman David Shew expressed confidence that ground firefighters aided by the air support would get the blaze under control, “but it will probably be a few days.”

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, for which the cause was not immediately known.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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