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Published: Monday, 7/7/2014

Shifting winds, triple-digit heat, rugged terrain hamper fight against California wildfire

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WINTERS, Calif. — Crews battling a wildfire Monday in a rugged patch of far Northern California faced another day of triple-digit temperatures and gusty winds as officials warned the flames could again threaten homes.

Such dry conditions have hurt the fight against other wildfires in Idaho, New Mexico, Utah and Washington state.

In California, crews were able to increase containment of the Monticello Fire to 35 percent in the steep mountains near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County.

“We’re going to have an aggressive attack not only from the ground but the air as well to maintain our control lines,” state fire spokesman Chris Christopherson said.

More than 1,600 firefighters were battling the blaze. One firefighter was hospitalized with minor injuries after a bulldozer he was operating rolled over. Another firefighter suffered a bee sting, and a third had heat exhaustion, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The fire has burned about 10 square miles since beginning Friday. It has been stoked by gusty winds and fueled by thick, brittle brush that has not burned for at least two decades and is extremely dry because of the California drought.

A threat to roughly 40 homes in Golden Bear Estates dissipated late Sunday, leading authorities to lift evacuation orders for the neighborhood.

Jodi Westropp, 43, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she was thankful her neighborhood was spared but understood the danger might not be over.

“It’s a risk here,” she said. “It’s just so dry.”

Firefighters who had been battling another wildfire northwest of Lake Berryessa were sent to attack the Monticello Fire after the other blaze was 90 percent contained. It had burned nearly 7 square miles and destroyed two homes, Christopherson said. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Lake Berryessa, about 75 miles northeast of San Francisco, is a popular recreation spot that attracts boaters and campers during the Fourth of July weekend.

Elsewhere in the West, more crews were dispatched to the Colorado Gulch Fire in Blaine County, Idaho, as flames spread. The fire has blackened a square mile since it started Sunday. Officials hope to have it contained by Tuesday.

In Utah, a wildfire that has burned 5 square miles, a home and two cabins was 25 percent contained, and a lightning-sparked, 5.6 square mile fire in northern New Mexico was 95 percent contained.

In central Washington, authorities advised residents in about 70 homes near Mansfield to prepare to evacuate after a fire that began Sunday burned over half a square mile.



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