More than 1,100 lightning-caused timber and brush fires raged through mountainous regions of California from the Oregon line to the Mojave Desert today as firefighters faced forecasts of increased winds and continued hot weather.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman LaVon Perez said 319 square miles of brush and timberland--an area equal to the entire city of San Diego--have been blackened since the first of nearly 8,000 lightning strikes was reported five days ago.
Although that is the state's worst plague of lightning fires in a decade, injury and damage estimates remained far below figures from much smaller fires of recent years as most of the 204,152 acres now in flames are in remote, sparsely populated regions of the state.
Twelve homes were reported destroyed in the 24-hour period ending at 9 a.m. today. The total additional acreage burned by 1,116 separate fires during that period covered about 100 square miles.
32 Homes Destroyed
Since Friday, 32 homes have been destroyed, including a dozen on Wednesday.
An estimated 8,000 people were evacuated from nearly a dozen rural communities--more than half of them in Tuolumne County near the northern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
And an alert was issued today for possible evacuation of five small Siskiyou County communities as a series of timber fires which have been burning uninhabited areas since the weekend approached homes along California 96 near the Oregon border.
"Winds of up to 25 miles an hour are forecast in areas where the fires are burning up and down the Sierra," fire spokesman Earl Clayton said today in a status report at the state and federal fire information center in Sacramento.
"It continues to be a critical situation," Perez added. "The (weather) forecasters say we're not going to get as many lightning strikes today--but they said that yesterday too, and we had more than 1,400 additional strikes."
Biggest in Modoc County
She said that as of this morning the combined federal-state-local firefighting force had grown to 12,975 persons, with some flown in from as far as 3,000 miles away.
Clayton said the biggest single fire consumed 22,000 acres in Lassen National Forest in Modoc County. However, a complex of 17 fires has roared over 30,000 acres in Mendocino and Lake counties, and another series burned 38,000 acres in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.