Valley Fire is California's 3rd Worst Fire in History

Cal Fire officials said Monday afternoon the 75,781-acre Valley Fire in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties is the third-worst wildfire in state history in terms of the number of damaged structures.

The 118-square-mile Valley Fire that started Sept. 12 in southern Lake County has damaged 1,780 structures as of Monday afternoon, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The Valley Fire, which killed at least three people and charred 118 square miles was 75 percent contained by Monday evening. That number was updated from an initial estimate of 70 percent, Cal Fire reported.

About 3,500 homes remained threatened by the fire. A 1991 fire in the Oakland Hills ranks as California's deadliest fire and its worst in the number of structures (2,900) destroyed.

The tally announced on Sunday brought the total number of homes destroyed in two wildfires - the Valley Fire and the Butte Fire - both burning in Northern California, to nearly 1,600, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Those fires killed five people, and on Sunday authorities announced that a body was found in the ashes of a wildfire in Monterey County, called the Tassajara Fire,  that destroyed or damaged 10 homes.

Firefighters found the man's body inside a charred vehicle after the fire began Saturday near the community of Jamesburg. Investigators were investigating his death as a possible suicide, Monterey County Sheriff's spokesman John Thornburg said.

A firefighter lost his home while battling the blaze, said Eric Walters, a spokesman for the Cachagua Fire Protection District.

"I was out fighting the fire on the other end, and then my whole place burned down,'' Bob Eaton, a volunteer firefighter with the Cachagua Fire Protection District, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. ``My parent's house, right below me, it burned down. And my neighbors up on top, their place is burned down.''

Eaton said firefighters' quick response to the blaze wasn't enough to save some of the homes. "It just went so damn fast,'' he said of the spread of the fire.

The blaze was one of 10 active wildfires Sunday, most of them in Northern California that continue to threaten thousand more homes.

Damage-assessment teams have counted 1,050 homes burned in Lake County, many of them in the town of Middletown, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The teams have completed about 80 percent of damage assessment, focusing largely on homes, Berlant said. They have not determined how many additional structures, such as sheds, barns and other outbuildings, were destroyed.

Meanwhile, another 545 homes were destroyed by a separate blaze, the Butte Fire, in Amador and Calaveras counties that killed at least two people and that has burned 110 square miles in the Sierra Nevada foothills. That blaze was 74 percent contained Monday. Even though it continued to threaten thousands of structures, all evacuation orders were lifted.

NBC Bay Area staff and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us