SPRING VALLEY (CBS SF) — Crews of firefighters aided by cooler weather in Lake County made significant progress against the Pawnee Fire on Tuesday, raising containment to 17 percent by evening.
So far according to Cal Fire, the Pawnee Fire had grown to 13,000 acres as of 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. At total of 2,700 firefighters are battling to gain control over the fire.
The still growing Pawnee Fire forced a new evacuation advisory in Colusa County Tuesday afternoon as firefighters continued to struggle with the blaze, authorities said.
The latest evacuation order was issued by Cal Fire at 12 p.m. Tuesday. The evacuation advisory for Colusa County included the area east of Walker Ridge, the Wilbur Springs area, Bear Valley and Brim Road.
Residents in the areas were urged to prepare for evacuation at a moment’s notice and urged to visit the readyforwildfire.org website to find a checklist of what to bring in case of evacuation.
People forced to evacuate Spring Valley set up a temporary camp much as they have during past evacuations. Many were showing signs of fatigue.
“We’ve been here quite a few times. In three years, we’ve had to evacuate four times,” said Spring Valley Resident Lola Claypool.
The local Moose Lodge opens its doors and parking lot to everyone.
“We a lot of times don’t get counted as an official evacuation center. We do it anyway. We do it because we love the community,” said Jane King with the Moose Lodge.
Volunteers brought extra water bowls, food and crates for all the pets.
But the flames and smoke billowing up from the ridge line were a constant reminder of why they were at the lodge.
“When summer starts — and that’s usually in June when it starts to get hot here — yeah, you worry. Everybody’s always on edge,” said Rita Laufer with the Animal Coalition of Lake County.
“I’m just getting tired of it. I just wish they knew a way to stop it,” said Spring Valley resident Wayne Petratuona.
Cal Fire was using every resource they have to create a fire break at the top of the ridge that parallels Walker Ridge Road just east of the Indian Valley Reservoir.
“We’re absolutely trying to put in as much of a line as possible today. We know weather is not in our favor in the upcoming days,” said Cal Fire PIO Brice Bennett.
Earlier Tuesday, Mother Nature gave weary firefighters a break early as red flag wildfire conditions vanished overnight in an area ravaged by a blaze that has charred 11,500 acres and destroyed at least 22 structures, many of them homes.
Cal Fire reported that temperatures had fallen, winds weakened and humidity levels climbed in the early hours to give the more than 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze chance to increase containment beyond the 5 percent already reached.
While evacuations remained in place for Spring Valley, containment lines around property were still holding with no additional structures getting destroyed overnight. As of late Tuesday morning, the active fire front has moved to the southeastern side of Indian Valley Reservoir.
Cal Fire spokesman Brice Bennett said the steep, rugged, rural terrain has been challenging as has the tinder-dry conditions.
“The fuel here is ripe and ready to burn,” he said.
The Pawnee Fire began on Sunday and has forced the mandatory evacuation of the small community of Spring Valley. While conditions were improving, fire officials said at least 600 structures remain threatened aND 1,500 had been evacuated.
For many Lake County residents fleeing the deadly flames of a wildfire has become all to familiar of an experience. Jon Holt, who was living in his camper at a evacuation center, told KPIX 5 he has been forced from his home by a wildfire four times in seven yeas.
So far Holt’s home has always survived, but that hadn’t lowered his anxiety levels early Tuesday morning.
“Quite a few of us (Spring Valley residents) are watching in anguish,” he told KPIX 5. “We hear there have been at least 12 homes destroyed in the valley.”
Holt said many of his neighbors did not heed the warnings to evacuate and have been taking to social media as they attempt to wait out the fire.
“Some of the neighbors who stayed have been taking to social media, telling their neighbors what is happening the best they can,” he said. “Some of us know that our homes are still there, some don’t. It’s not a good feeling.”
Holt said like many of his neighbors he was prepared to leave when the order to evacuate was given.
“Everybody keeps a bug-out bag and supplies,” he said. “We have a plan.”
The blaze is the latest in the county of just 65,000 people in the last few years. In 2015, a series of fires destroyed 2,000 buildings and killed four people. The following year, an arsonist started a fire that wiped out 300 buildings.
Last year, the county was among those ravaged by a string of fires that ripped through Northern California wine country.
“I think we’re all just so traumatized and overwhelmed with all these fires year after year, this whole community is at a breaking point,” said Terri Gonsalves, 55, who evacuated her home around midnight Sunday.