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North Coast firefighters battle blazes around California


A flare-up in local fire activity earlier this week was dying down on Friday, but firefighters around the North Coast were mobilized nonetheless — many of them fighting blazing wildland fires in other regions.

More than a dozen fire area agencies have contributed resources to a battle against raging fires around the state brought on by exceptionally hot, dry, windy conditions.

Most are assigned to two of the state's six major fires: the 6,400 Panther Fire in rugged, rural terrain outside Chico and the 10,000-acre Springs Fire in the Ventura County community of Camarillo, near Oxnard, fire officials said.

They include a strike team of local fire agencies that was sent early Thursday to a 20-acre blaze north of Napa that has since been contained.

After a few hours sleep in Vacaville, that group left early Friday for the Tehama County fire in the Deer Creek Drainage off Highway 132 north of Butte Meadow, fire officials said.

Only 10 percent contained on Friday morning, the Panther Fire was occupying the time of nearly 1,100 firefighters, Cal Fire said, including Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini, who was working incident command.

Three- and four-person engine crews from Forestville, Gold Ridge, Santa Rosa, Rancho Adobe and Windsor fire departments formed the strike team sent first to Napa and then to Tehama County, under the leadership of Rancho Adobe Battalion Chief Steve Davidson, assisted by Petaluma Battalion Chief Jeff Holden, officials said.

Santa Rosa Fire Capt. Keith Flood also is working the Panther Fire as a field observor specializing in mapping, Battalion Chief Mark Basque said.

A Mendocino County strike team consisting of engine crews from the Elk, Little Lake, Redwood Valley, Comptche and Ukiah Valley fire departments has been dispatched to the Panther Fire, as well, Cal Fire said.

Cal Fire's Mendocino and Sonoma-Lake-Napa units have also moved large numbers of resources to the Panther incident: numerous engine teams, bulldozers, and other personnel, authorities said.

A separate strike team consisting of engines owned by the California Office of Emergency Services but staffed by local fire agencies had been sent to the day-old Springs Fire, where more than 4,000 structures — mostly residences — were threatened, Cal Fire officials said.

Santa Rosa Fire Division Chief Bill Shubin, who also serves as chief of the Kenwood Fire Department, is leading the OES team, which includes crews from Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Napa, Vacaville and Lake County, Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Mark Basque said.

Wildfire season arrived with full force around California this week, marked in part Wednesday by five serious fires in Sonoma and Napa counties.

The largest, the 125-acre Yellow Fire in Knights Valley northwest of Calistoga was finally 100 percent contained at 9 a.m. Friday, though fire crews were to remain on the scene conducting mop-up activities at least through the day.

A few remaining firefighters also were dowsing the last of the hot spots on a 20-acre fire off Soda Canyon Road near Napa, Cal Fire said.

Fire activity across California remained high yesterday and overnight. One of those new fires was a fast moving wildfire in Ventura County that quickly forced the evacuations of hundreds. The Springs Fire near Camarillo continues to burn very actively and is threatening several thousand homes. Over 3,000 firefighters are on the frontlines of the six major wildfires burning in California. CAL FIRE has deployed Incident Management Teams to the Springs Fire as well as the Panther Fire in Tehama County to provide command and control of those large fires.

A red flag warning was in effect Friday for Southern California and for Northern California down to Lake County, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

But dangerous fire conditions were present all over the state because, and Cal Fire was warning residents to exercise special caution when engaged in activities that could spark a fire — using mowers and weed eaters only in the morning or evening hours, for instance, and using care with any wildfires.