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Lightning sparks more fires in Northern California

Posted: August 18, 2012 7:00 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2012 7:00 p.m.

U.S. Forest Service Klamath National Forest Crew 5 member Tony Shelton picks up from a rest on prepping a road for a possible backburn for the Chips Fire that continues to grow Saturday in West Lake Almanor.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Crews were making progress against a series of Northern California wildfires, but fire officials said lightning sparked more than a dozen new blazes late Friday and early Saturday.

Most of the new fires were small, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Meanwhile, firefighters had a large fire in the Plumas National Forest, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, 34 percent contained. That blaze has consumed more than 69 square miles and continued to threaten about 900 homes.

Two of the new fires were burning in thick timber and rugged terrain east of the Mendocino County community of Covelo, and were difficult for ground crews to access.

"This week we've been incredibly busy with all the fires we've been having," Berlant said. "As we've been making progress on the fires, we are now reassigning new personnel on those fires that have popped over the last couple of days."

The new fires come as fire crews were able to contain a wildfire in Lake County.

That blaze consumed more than 12 square miles before fire crews were able to contain it around 6 a.m. Saturday, Berlant said. More than 100 firefighters remained at the scene mopping up and watching over hotspots.

Firefighters also continued to battle two huge wildfires on national parklands in Northern California.

Nearly 1,200 firefighters were struggling to surround the Chips fire in the Plumas National Forest.

A light sprinkling of rain helped firefighters early Saturday. Crews also were able to get bulldozers into an area they didn't think was accessible, allowing them to help secure a section of the containment line, fire spokesman John Nichols said.

"We're encouraged by the progress our folks have been able to make," Nichols said. "The weather last night and this morning helped the night crew get that much more done."

Fire officials don't expect to have the blaze fully contained until Aug. 31.

Officials were cautioning drivers on local roads, including Highway 70 and Highway 89, to watch out for rocks and trees loosened by the fire that could fall onto roadways. Area roads also were busy with heavy equipment being used to fight the fires.

Another fire burning in Lassen Volcanic National Park was 32 percent contained after consuming more than 43 square miles. Fire officials expect the more than 900 firefighters at the scene to have the blaze contained by Tuesday.

Crews on the ground were being helped by helicopters and air tankers dropping fire retardant on the blaze.

To the north, in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, fire crews were able to quickly surround four new fires that began early Saturday.


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