Valley Fire: Day 5 of crisis for Lake County

UPDATE 8:27 P.M.: The Valley Fire is now 35 percent contained.

UPDATE 2:05 P.M. Rain is falling steadily at an evacuation center where hundreds of people fleeing a Northern California wildfire are staying in trucks and tents.

Pat Morales, Red Cross camp manager, says a large outdoor canopy is in place for people who want relief from the rain but have dogs too large to go into buildings.

The center at the Napa County fairgrounds is feeding about 1,000 people at each meal. The food is being prepared by wine country chefs who are donating their time and skill.

Andrew Wild is an adjunct at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena and a caterer. He says he showed up at the center Saturday night, hours after it opened, and started giving orders in the kitchen.

He’s working with donated sausages, hundreds of pounds of ice, truckloads of produce, and canned goods.

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1:27 p.m.

A local sheriff says he expects searchers to find several bodies amid the smoldering ruins of a Northern California county hard-hit by a drought-fueled wildfire.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said Wednesday that cadaver dogs and their handlers are scouring Lake County in a search for missing persons thought to have perished in a fast-moving blaze that has destroyed more than 600 homes 90 miles north of San Francisco.

Martin didn’t elaborate further.

The body of an elderly, disabled woman was found Monday. Authorities are searching for a 69-year-old man last heard from Saturday night in his home in the same neighborhood.

State and local officials toured the disaster area Wednesday morning to assess the damage and to determine if President Barack Obama should be asked for emergency federal funds and aid.


11:05 a.m.

Authorities have lifted mandatory wildfire evacuation orders for dozens of residents in the small Central California communities of Goodmill and Crabtree, east of Fresno.

California’s largest active wildfire has charred 218 square miles of grass, brush and timber since it was sparked by lightning July 31.

But for the first time in more than six weeks, firefighters are getting a handle on the blaze that now has flames simmering in places. It was 67 percent contained Wednesday.

The fire also has moved away from the Sierra Nevada’s Giant Sequoia trees, some of which are 3,000 years old.

Fresno County is about 300 miles southeast of where another massive fire is raging in Lake County in Northern California


9:15 a.m.

Fire crews are gaining ground against a fire in the Gold Rush country of the Sierra Nevada foothills that has destroyed more than 400 homes and structures.

The blaze in Amador and Calaveras Counties has charred more than 110 square miles and was 45 percent contained on Wednesday. It is still threatening another 6,400 structures.

Forecasters say the area could see some rain Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the fire in Fresno County was more than two-thirds contained Wednesday, more than six weeks after the blaze was sparked by lightning.

It has charred about 218 square miles. Containment is at 67 percent. That fire is about 300 miles southeast of the fire raging in Middletown in Northern California.

8 a.m.

Authorities have arrested at least two suspects with burned out safes in their vehicles as they investigate reports of looting in the wake of Northern California’s devastating wildfire.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat ( ) reports Wednesday that Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said he didn’t have further details about the arrests.

He said deputies are unable to stand guard at individual homes. He characterized Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake as most vulnerable because that’s where the most homes were left standing while residents remained evacuated.

Police are being diligent about trying to protect homes.

Dozens of California Highway Patrol officers and law enforcement officers from outside agencies patrolled in Hidden Valley Lake, where an estimated 100 homes were lost and residents remained evacuated.

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, 6:18 AM – The Valley Fire has grown to 70,000 acres and is still 30% contained, according to Cal Fire PIO, Paul Lowenthal.

7,000 homes are currently threatened, a 2,000 decrease since yesterday.

There are 2,7000 firefighters on the lines.

LAKE COUNTY (KRON) – Thousands of people are waking up to day five of the devastating Valley Fire in evacuation centers, hopeful that this crisis will not last much longer as firefighters fight to contain the fire.

The Valley Fire has charred 67,000 acres has destroyed 600 homes along with hundreds of other structures, according to Cal Fire.

Thousands of firefighters have been working tirelessly through the night to get the fire under control.

Containment of the fire is now up to 30%, a big improvement from last night when containment was only at 10%.

The fast moving fire spread within hours in Lake County, starting on Saturday at around 3:30 p.m. and growing up to 10,000 acres within three hours. By the next day, the fire had spread to 50,000.

Fire investigators are still working to find the cause of the fire which they believe to have started in the community of Cobb.

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says investigators on Tuesday were in an area near High Valley Road and Bottle Rock Road, where the blaze was first spotted.

Berlant says what sparked the blaze is still under investigation.

The Valley Fire also destroyed power and electrical lines causing a power outage to thousands of people. More than 7,200 people are still without power because of the fire.

PG&E crews have been working 24-hour shifts to repair dozens of downed power lines and poles.

The deadly fire took the life of Barbara McWilliams, 72, Monday who was tragically trapped inside her home as the Valley Fire swept through her neighborhood.

Firefighters said by the time they got to the house, it was already engulfed in flames.

McWilliams was a retired teacher who had advanced multiple sclerosis and settled in the Middletown area in the last year.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in six communities around the fire: Twin Lake, Hidden Valley Lake, Middletown, Aetna Springs, Seigler Canyon and Loch Lommond.

Three out of the six communities have been destroyed by the raging flames: Middletown, Cobb and Hidden Valley.

For more information about the fire perimeter and evacuation centers, check out KRON4’s interactive map.

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