As mop-up crews continued battling a six-day-old, arson-caused blaze in Orange County, firefighters around the state raced Monday to complete lines around the remaining lightning fires that have destroyed nearly 600,000 acres.
Remnants of the 5,800-acre blaze in Cleveland National Forest were still keeping about 1,100 firefighters busy, according to Patti Range of the Orange County Fire Department.
Range said arson investigators had determined that the $2-million fire that broke out near Silverado Canyon was "human caused," but officials were unavailable to elaborate. Range said there have been no arrests.
Fire crews succeeded Sunday in completing a 14-mile containment ring around the blaze, but not before an unidentified firefighter suffered 40 hornet stings. Range said he was hospitalized briefly and then returned to the fire lines.
"What a guy," Range said. "Can you believe he went right back out there again?"
Eleven firefighters have been injured battling the blaze that has spread into Riverside County and briefly posed a threat to homes and ranches in the Temecula Valley area.
Remnants of the spectacular fire did not pose a threat to inhabited areas or structures while it continued to smolder and burn vegetation within a perimeter dug around the blaze, Range said.
"There was a lot of cutting and (back fires set) over the weekend, and that helped contain the fire," she said.
In Northern California, where multiple fires continued to burn Monday, winds of up to 35 m.p.h. were expected to last through Wednesday, carrying with them the potential to fan flames and boost sparks past containment lines, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Fontana said. No rain was expected.
Lightning-caused fires have burned more than 734,000 acres in 10 Western states. Hardest hit has been California, where the U.S. Forest Service boosted the estimated acreage destroyed to 536,471 in the northern part of the state and 60,152 in the south.
In the Klamath National Forest, where 150,000 acres have burned, fires over 2,800 acres remained out of control, but most of the blazes were contained. About 8,000 firefighters worked to finish encircling 40,000 acres of flames there with a containment line.
"Fresh crews are coming in from areas already contained, and that should make the work go quicker," said Bill Terry, an information officer with the Texas Forest Service who came to California to help. "Things are going much better," he said, but added: "If conditions worsen, it could go the other way very quickly."
In the Shasta-Trinity national forests, 79,250 acres have burned. The largest blaze in that area, the Limedyke complex covering 24,000 acres, was 85% contained Monday, with complete containment expected today, according to Kathy Gillette of the U.S. Forest Service.
Though the 29,400-acre Silver Complex fires continued to burn out of control in the Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, the 650 soldiers from the Army's 7th Infantry Division at Ft. Ord were no longer needed to build fire lines, said Pauline McGinty, a fire information officer.
"There's no need for them now, because of the terrain and the areas we can work in and can't work in because of access," McGinty said. "You get too many people on a fire and it can be dangerous."