Taking advantage of the coolest day of the week, firefighters aggressively battled throughout the July Fourth holiday a wildland blaze burning across parts of Yolo and Napa counties, stopping the fire’s advance to the south while increasing its overall containment, Cal Fire officials said.
Temperatures in the low 80s and humidity above 40 percent yielded a favorable “weather window,” allowing firefighters to gain “leaps and bounds” on containment efforts, Cal Fire Capt. Jordan Motta said.
“We call it putting more black on the map,” Motta said. “There’s been a lot of hard work by crews in the past 36 hours as weather is permitting.”
Motta said an increase in fire personnel, which now totals 3,475, also led to better containment.
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, the County fire, located in the rugged hills east of Lake Berryessa, was 27 percent contained. Since Tuesday night, its size had increased by 13,500 acres to 86,000 acres.
Cal Fire officials said backfiring operations near the blaze’s south and southeastern flanks stopped it from advancing southward.
“The main body of fire is burning in the north right now, where the terrain is more remote, more rugged, with steeper and taller peaks and longer valleys,” Motta said.
He said aggressive containment work would continue into Wednesday night, as temperatures are expected to slowly rise Thursday and into the weekend.
Meanwhile in Lake County, the Pawnee fire is expected to be fully contained by Saturday, Cal Fire said.
It was at 90 percent contained Wednesday night with 15,000 acres burnt. It has destroyed 22 structures, damaged another six and injured a firefighter.
Though significant progress was made against the County fire, Cal Fire officials said the steep and inaccessible terrain continues to hamper firefighting efforts on the northern end of the blaze, where it still remained intense and active Wednesday.
Some 1,500 structures are still threatened by the blaze, which began Saturday, officials said. Most of the structures are seasonal and year-round homes along the Highway 128 corridor, which runs along the southern end of Lake Berryessa. Full containment isn’t expected until July 10.
The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office decided Wednesday to lift some mandatory and advisory evacuations in Yolo County from Highway 16 west to the Napa County line between County Road 53 and Highway 128.
Evacuation orders remain in place for areas north of there, from Highway 16 west to the Napa County line between county roads 53 and 40.
Highway 128 remained closed between Markley Cove Resort and Pleasants Valley Road Wednesday night.
Brian Mejia, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey, said Wednesday was the “coolest day of the week” and that a warming trend would begin Thursday. Temperatures into the weekend are expected to rise by 10 degrees, he said.
The warming trend is caused by a high pressure system currently hovering over the Midwest and East Coast, which is enduring a heat wave. The system will move west toward the Rockies and Great Basin.
“We’ll start feeling temperatures increase starting Thursday,” he said.
Mejia said temperatures should rise Thursday somewhere between the upper 70s and lower 80s and reach a couple of degrees higher on Friday. By Saturday and Sunday, high temperatures should be in the mid- to upper-80s.