The stubborn Lodge Complex fire continued unabated Saturday night in Mendocino County, growing to more than 7,500 acres and drawing almost 2,200 firefighters.
The fire had moved to within about 3 miles south of Leggett on Saturday evening, but residents were not being ordered to leave — yet.
“We’re telling them, ‘Hey, better get ready. You could get the evacuation warning and order,’ ” Cal Fire spokesman Jerry Sharp said.
A number of smaller communities were under evacuation orders on the eastern boundary of the fire, east of Brush Mountain Ridge, Cal Fire officials said, although firefighting personnel continue to make progress constructing fire lines across the northern and southern boundaries of the fire.
On Friday, eight firefighters were injured as the fire pushed eastward, overrunning them as they tried to defend containment lines on the eastern flank south of Leggett, officials said.
None of the firefighters sustained life-threatening injuries, though all were airlifted to the UC Davis burn center in Sacramento for treatment, Cal Fire personnel said.
Three of the injured people were reportedly local agency firefighters from Santa Clara County aiding the effort in the remote wooded hills of northwest Mendocino County.
Five others were inmate firefighters working under Cal Fire and the California Department of Corrections, according to an online posting by Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.
A Cal Fire spokeswoman in Sacramento told the Associated Press on Saturday that all eight firefighters had been treated and discharged. Their names were not immediately released.
The Lodge fire, sparked by lighting 10 days ago, continued to burn in heavy timber, challenging firefighters in the steep, rugged terrain with difficult access.
Smoke from the fire drifted into Sonoma and Napa counties Saturday, prompting warnings from Bay Area air quality officials for people with lung conditions to stay indoors or avoid outdoor activity.
The fire was still only about 30 percent contained Saturday evening, but remained west and south of Highway 101, the main travel artery through the region.
The fire appeared closest to the highway near Hermitage Road west of Cummings, where it was just over a mile away, according to a recent Cal Fire map.
The communities of Leggett and Laytonville on Highway 101 remained under threat of evacuation, though only rural residences in sparsely populated areas outside of any town were under evacuation orders, Cal Fire said.
“It’s pretty far away from Laytonville,” Cal Fire spokesman Sharp said.
Communities on the eastern boundary of the fire that were ordered evacuated included Camp Seabow, Elder Place, Tan Oak Park, Bald Mountain Ranch, Mad Creek and Elk Creek east of Brush Mountain.
About 35 structures were considered threatened.
The injured firefighters were working south of Leggett on the eastern edge of the fire when “the fire took a run on them, and they were, in fact, overrun,” Cal Fire spokesman Larry Pendarvis said.
The firefighters had emergency shelters but did not deploy them, he said. No additional information had been made public.
A shelter set up at the Leggett Valley Unified Schools campus by the American Red Cross housed at least two families overnight Friday and Saturday morning, Pendarvis said.
“These are not densely populated areas,” he said. “We, by no means, are out of the woods on this,” he said. “We still have weather that is indicative of intense fire behavior in that same area. We definitely have got a lot of resources on the east side of the fire. We will continue to strengthen our control lines and be engaged in perimeter control throughout the day on that flank of the fire.”