California Firefighters Battle Hundreds Of Blazes

By: MARCUS WOHLSEN AP Writer
By: MARCUS WOHLSEN AP Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Hundreds of wildfires sparked by lightning
flared Sunday across the heart of wine country and remote forests in Northern California, the latest batch of destructive blazes in the bone-dry state.

One had spread across nearly 6 square miles by early Sunday after starting the previous afternoon in Napa County and quickly moving into a mostly rural area of Solano County.

The fire threatened more than 100 buildings as it fed on grassy woodland about 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, said Roger Archey, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection, or Cal Fire.

It was 10 percent contained Sunday morning and had destroyed one
home, Archey said. Evacuations were ordered for some residents,
said agency spokeswoman Nancy Carniglia.

Wildfires have destroyed more than 175 homes in Northern California so far this year. Blazes started popping up in the region just as California's unofficial fire season began in mid-May, following the state's driest two-month period on record.

A blaze about 25 miles south of San Jose forced several residents from their homes Sunday, though officials did not have exact figures. That fire covered nearly 2 square miles and was only 10 percent contained. It also was blamed on lightning.

Thunderstorms were responsible for as many as 75 fires in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about 160 miles north of Sacramento. They ranged in size from less than an acre to more than a square mile. None immediately threatened homes, said Forest Service spokesman Michael Odle.

Mendocino County had as many as 90 fires, ranging in size up to 125 acres, Cal Fire officials said.

South of San Francisco, a fire that destroyed homes and closed a
stretch of highway was 90 percent contained after charring just less than a square mile. Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, a day after roughly 2,000 people fled their homes.

It was the third major blaze to hit Santa Cruz County in the past month. A 520-acre blaze destroyed 11 buildings in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a fire near Corralitos covered more than 4,200 acres and destroyed about 100 buildings.

Along the coast in the Los Padres National Forest, a wildfire burning since Saturday forced 75 homes and businesses to be evacuated. And just miles away, firefighters worked to stanch a huge fire that has destroyed two homes since it began two weeks ago. It was nearly 60 percent contained after charring 83 square miles.

Near the Nevada border, authorities said Sunday that they are studying a "person of interest" in last summer's catastrophic Lake Tahoe wildfire but lack enough evidence to make an arrest.

Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the blaze, which
destroyed 254 homes, caused $140 million in property damage and
scorched nearly 5 square miles. Investigators think the fire started with stray embers from an illegal campfire at a popular party spot.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-06-22-08 1814EDT


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