LOWER LAKE, Calif. (KRON) — A wildfire burning in Lake County has destroyed hundreds of structures and has forced thousands to flee the town of Lower Lake.
The Clayton Fire has burned 4,000 acres and is now 20 percent contained, according to fire officials.
Lake County is still recovering from the devastating Valley Fire that ripped through Middleton nearly a year ago.
Officials confirmed that at least 175 structures have been destroyed.
The Clayton Fire reached Main Street in Lower Lake on Sunday and burned a winery, a Habitat for Humanity office and several businesses as thick, black smoke loomed over the small downtown strip.
Staff at a hospital in Clearlake, a neighboring town of about 15,000, rushed to transfer 16 patients to another hospital and firefighters carried goats and other animals to safety as homes burned around them.
The blaze was one of 11 large wildfires in California, where high temperatures and parched conditions brought on by a five-year drought raised the fire danger. In central California, a day-old wildfire burned 20 structures and threatened 150 homes.
The Lower Lake fire broke out Saturday afternoon and exploded to nearly 5 square miles as it fed on bone-dry vegetation. Firefighters struggled to get a handle on the largely out-of-control blaze in 100-degree heat and windy conditions.
Officials confirmed dozens of homes burned. Residents thinking conditions were calm earlier in the day went on errands in town and came back to roaring flames and smoke. Some used hoses or water from their pools to try to protect their houses.
The fire created its own weather pattern and shifted northward into Lower Lake on Sunday afternoon, said Suzie Blankenship, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Tragically, the burned Habitat for Humanity office had been raising money to help rebuild homes destroyed by one of the state’s most destructive blazes nearly a year ago.
“Emotions are still incredibly raw from the Valley Fire,” state Sen. Mike McGuire said about last year’s wildfire, which killed four people and destroyed more than 1,300 homes. “I don’t think any of us thought we’d be back where we are tonight.”
Lt. Doug Pittman, a Marin County sheriff’s spokesman who was working on behalf of Cal Fire, said residents fled their homes very quickly this weekend.
“They’ve seen it before,” Pittman said.
Evacuations: Clayton Creek Rd., all of Morgan Valley Rd., North Spruce Grove Road to Jerusalem Grade Rd., Hwy 53 at the Hwy 29 junction north to Hwy 20
Advisory Evacuations: Jerusalem Grade Road
Road Closures: Clayton Creek Rd. at Hwy 29 , all of Morgan Valley Road to the Napa Countyline, North Spruce Grove Road and junction of Spruce Grove Rd and Jerusalem Grade South Spruce Grove Road off Hwy 29.
Kelseyville H.S. Seventh Day Adventist Church Twin Pines Casino
5480 Main St. 3500 Hill Rd E. 22223 Hwy 29
Kelseyville CA, 95451 Lakeport CA, 95453 Middletown CA, 95461
Konocti School District schools will be closed the entire week from August 15 through August 19. A plan for the following week will be released on or before Friday, Aug. 19.
The closed schools are as follows:
Blue Heron School
Burns Valley Elementary
Carle Continuation High School
Clearlake Creativity School
East Lake Elementary
Konocti Education Center
Lower Lake Elementary
Lower Lake High School
Pomo Elementary School
STATE OF EMERGENCY:
Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency in Lake County due to the Clayton Fire.
HOW TO HELP:
North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO) is re-activating the fire relief fund created during 2015’s devastating Lake County wildfires, and is already working with local organizations to react as quickly as possible to the Clayton fire.
More details about the fund and how to apply will be forthcoming. In the meantime, donations are being accepted at any Mendo Lake Credit Union branch, at any NCO office, or via PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HLU6ZNS7EDQU8. Make checks payable to NCO / Wildfire Relief Fund, and write “Clayton Fire” in the memo section.