Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Northern California wildfire challenges crews

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

Crews were able to hold the line on the Monticello Fire in the steep mountains near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County overnight and increase containment by 5 percent to 35 percent. But officials were expecting another dry, 100-degree-plus day and warned that there was the possibility homes could be threatened again as the fire moved north.

"It's going to be even hotter today and even dryer weather throughout the area," state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Temperatures in the area reached 102 degrees Sunday, fire officials said.

A firefighter was hospitalized after a bulldozer he was operating rolled over. Berlant said he suffered minor injuries.

Two other firefighters have suffered minor injuries — one a bee sting and the other heat exhaustion, Berlant said.

The fire has burned about 10 square miles. It began on Friday and was stoked by gusty winds and thick, brittle brush that has not burned for at least two decades and is extremely dry because of California's drought.

Shifting winds had threatened to send the flames back in the direction of a hillside neighborhood that firefighters saved Saturday. The threat to the roughly 40 homes in Golden Bear Estates dissipated late Sunday, leading authorities to lift evacuation orders for those who live in the neighborhood.

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

"It's a risk here," she said. "It's just so dry."

Firefighters battling another wildfire northwest of Lake Berryessa were sent to attack the Monticello Fire. That blaze was 85 percent contained after burning nearly 7 square miles and destroying two homes. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries.

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

In Southern California, a 217-acre wildfire near the mountain town of Julian was fully contained Sunday.

The blaze broke out Thursday, prompting the mandatory evacuation of 200 homes and forcing the cancellation of the central San Diego County town's Fourth of July parade and celebration.

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