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Gusts Hamper Containment of 12,000-Acre Wildfire

Firefighters have made limited progress battling the Sonoma County blaze, which has destroyed four homes.

September 07, 2004|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters battled erratic winds and very low humidity Monday, making slow gains on a fire that had burned nearly 12,000 acres in the California wine country.

The Sonoma County fire has been feeding on brush, unpredictable wind patterns and air so dry that even at night there is no significant increase in moisture, said Janet Marshall, spokeswoman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"This day will be very telling," Marshall said. "We have to be real flexible."

The fire, which started Friday northeast of Geyserville, has been 20% contained. Full containment of the fire, which is burning through steep, uneven terrain, is not expected until Wednesday morning, Marshall said.

Four homes, eight outbuildings and 12 vehicles have been destroyed, and about 40 residents have been evacuated from the area, about 60 miles north of San Francisco. That includes evacuations ordered for six homes in the upper Dry Creek Road area on Monday morning, Marshall said.

Two firefighters were injured, though not critically. The unpredictable winds and dry vegetation have made the situation very dangerous for the 1,875 firefighters on the scene, Marshall said.

"These are very erratic winds, which can be blowing perpendicular to one another," Marshall added. "You never know where they're coming from, and that's a huge safety concern for firefighters."

The Geysers, the world's largest geothermal power facility, has power lines from 21 generating plants crossing over rugged terrain near the fire, and that creates the possibility of blackouts, said Kent Robertson, a spokesman for Calpine Corp.

Several hundred miles to the north, another fire has been burning through the hills of Amador County since Sunday afternoon. That fire forced officials to divert some aircraft from the Sonoma County fire, Marshall said.

Fire officials said the Amador County burn was 50% contained and hadn't spread beyond 104 acres by Monday morning.

Some local residents who had been evacuated were being allowed back into their homes, said Terry Eastwood, a fire captain for the state forestry agency.

That fire should be contained by this morning, Eastwood said.

A burning motor home sparked another fire Friday night, which spread quickly in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Calaveras County, destroying 13 homes and 45 outbuildings.

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