Firefighters in northern California are battling two huge wildfires. One destroyed at least 13 homes. The other is burning in Yosemite National Park. (July 29)
SHINGLE SPRINGS, California — Some firefighters battling a Northern California wildfire that destroyed nearly 20 homes and prompted evacuation orders for 1,200 people were being dispatched to other fires after making more gains against the blaze.
Crews discovered six more homes destroyed by the fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento, bringing the total to 19, state fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean said Tuesday. The fire, which began Friday, also has claimed 48 outbuildings.
It was 80 percent contained and holding at a little under 6 square miles. McLean said some firefighters were released Monday night and more were expected to be taken off the blaze Tuesday.
Most of the 1,200 evacuees were told Monday they could safely return home.
Fred and Carolyn Shults had to flee the wildfire near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties when billowing flames bore down on them.
On Monday at a Red Cross shelter, the couple hugged friends and neighbors when they heard from a firefighter friend that their home was still standing.
It was a welcome change from the weekend, when Caroline Shults scrolled through photos of the fire on her phone, hoping she wouldn't see her 100 apple trees or her home.
The couple has been wildfire conscious after several scares, ensuring they cleared vegetation. But the Sand fire, which officials trace to a hot car in dry grass, reminded them of the limits of preparation.
"Wildfires are so uncontrollable, and people can start them so easily without knowing what they're doing," said Fred Shults.
They also didn't anticipate how quickly they would have to evacuate, vowing to keep a list of items to leave with next time.
Laurel Fulton, a 66-year-old fellow evacuee, knows that lesson well after leaving behind an obstinate horse.
"When the sheriff is banging on your window yelling 'Get out now, get out now,' you don't have much of a choice," Fulton said.
Fulton also said the fire was so hot and so fast the sand along a nearby river had burned to glass and she saw ashes the size of dollar bills. She also managed to rescue 4 dogs, a cat and her other horse. She said her neighbor stayed behind and has been reporting that her horse is OK.
Only a small number of evacuees in roughly a square mile patch of land remained out of their homes.
A private drone trying to record footage of the fire nearly hindered efforts to attack the flames from the air Monday, state fire officials said. The man controlling the drone was told to stop it because of the potential danger to firefighting planes. He was not cited.
Another fire about 100 miles away had burned through a little more than 4 square miles of brush and trees in Yosemite National Park, the neighboring Stanislaus National Forest and private land Monday and was sending smoke into Yosemite's famed valley.
It was 5 percent contained after destroying one home.
An estimated 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal remained under evacuation.
Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Scott Smith in Fresno contributed to this report.