Northern California

Pawnee Fire in Lake County Torches 10,500 Acres, Destroys 22 Structures

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency

The Pawnee Fire continues to destroy buildings and burn through acres in Lake County as it enters its third day.

There has been progress, but not much. The wildfire, which has scorched at least 10,500 acres and destroyed 22 structures, was 5 percent contained late Monday, according to Cal Fire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday also declared a state of emergency for the Northern California wildfire. The state of emergency allows Lake County to receive more state resources to fight the fire and for recovery afterward.

The growing blaze, which started Saturday, has forced about 3,000 people to evacuate their homes. Lake County is about 120 miles north of San Francisco. 

The wind-driven wildfire, buring in the area of Pawnee and New Long Valley roads northeast of the Clearlake Oaks community, is also threatening 600 structures, Cal Fire said.

Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for people in the Spring Valley community and surrounding areas, according to officials. The Lake County Sheriff's Department is posting detailed and up-to-date evacuation orders on its website.

"What we're stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return," state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said. "This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It's a good reminder that fire season is upon us."

An evacuation center has been set up at Lower Lake High School located at 9430 Lake Street in Lower Lake, according to officials. A shelter for evacuated animals has been established at Social Service Center located at 15975 Anderson Ranch Parkway in Lower Lake.

More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment are battling the blaze in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment up close.

"It's kind of the worst possible combination," Cox said.

Officials said hot weather, high winds and dry conditions are fueling the fires less than a year after California's costliest fires killed 44 people and tore through the state's wine country in October, causing an estimated $10 billion in damage.

Downed power lines were blamed for 12 of the two dozen 2017 fires. The causes of the other fires are under investigation.

Terri Gonsalves is one of an estimated residents who evacuated their homes.

The 55-year-old fled her Lake County home about midnight Sunday, tossing four goats into her truck. She had been monitoring another fire that appeared to be moving away, but then she looked out her back window and saw a big hill aflame.

That's when she fled.

She is staying with her daughter in nearby Middletown, a small city devastated by wildfire in 2015. She last heard that her house is safe.

She posted on Facebook that she needed to borrow a portable pen big enough for four goats that keep escaping her daughter's yard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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