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Homes Lost as Fires Rage in N. California

August 08, 1994| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Fires in Northern California destroyed more than 30 structures, including some homes, by late Sunday, shutting down a highway and prompting evacuations as firefighters struggled to control the wind-driven flames.

The most serious blaze, in the Sierra Nevada foothills near the town of Kelsey, had burned as many as 20 houses and outbuildings as it consumed more than 500 acres amid high winds and hot temperatures, according to the California Department of Forestry.

The fire, in densely wooded terrain, was reported Sunday afternoon near California 193, forcing closure of that roadway between Placerville and Georgetown in El Dorado County.

The Department of Forestry said 740 firefighters were on the scene battling the Kelsey blaze, as were 12 air tankers. Four firefighters suffered heat exhaustion and second-degree burns.

A separate fire in steep, brushy country near the Gold Rush hamlet of Rough and Ready had consumed 10 buildings and 500 acres. Air tankers aided in the firefighting until dark, and only 10% of the fire had been contained by late Sunday.

"What I can say is that the fire is out of control and burning like crazy," said Department of Forestry spokesman T. J. Cantrell.

Authorities evacuated some residents to an emergency shelter and ordered the precautionary evacuation of the Grass Valley Electronics complex, a group that manufactures television equipment for broadcasters.

The Rough and Ready fire is near the same area ravaged by the so-called " '49-er fire" several years ago.

On the California-Nevada border, more than 1,000 firefighters gained the upper hand on a 7,000-acre wildfire that destroyed three houses and was diverted from two dozen others. The flames were about 80% contained late Sunday, with full containment expected by today, officials said.

The fire started Thursday in the Tahoe National Forest in California and spread quickly eastward to the Nevada line.

Authorities said it was started by a U.S. Forest Service contractor doing preliminary work on a reforestation project for the Tahoe National Forest.

In Lakeport, 90 miles north of San Francisco, two houses burned after a fire spread through 10 acres of a wooded subdivision before it was contained by firefighters, air tankers and a helicopter, according to the Department of Forestry.

And a smaller wildfire Sunday in Truckee, Calif. burned to within a mile of the ski condos and vacation properties of the Tahoe Donner subdivision, officials said.

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