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Cooler weather helps firefighters gain ground on Elk Fire

Aided by cooling temperatures, firefighters battling the new Elk fire in Lake County made good progress Thursday and were able to get the 670-acre blaze near the town of Upper Lake 30 percent contained, officials said.

Mandatory evacuations ordered Wednesday afternoon in a sparsely populated ranching area north of town had been rescinded as flames moved northeast, away from populated areas, Cal Fire Division Chief Mike Wilson said.

“The most active part of the fire has burned out into a part where there’s no structures threatened,” he said.

The Elk fire, so named because it started along Elk Mountain Road from an as-yet-undetermined cause, is the fifth major wildfire in Lake County this season. Together, they have destroyed 71 homes and charred almost 150 square miles.

Though the Elk fire was described Wednesday night as encompassing about 450 acres, revised mapping caused officials to estimate it closer to 670 acres.

There was little new growth Thursday, and minimal winds and fire activity allowed construction of fire lines that were holding well, Wilson said.

About 270 firefighters under joint command of Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service were battling the blaze, which started just before 3 p.m. Wednesday a few miles north of Upper Lake, a quiet town along Highway 20 on the north shore of Clear Lake.

Wilson said light winds Thursday afternoon had not been enough to push the flames beyond established lines.

“We’re looking pretty good that it will hold through this afternoon,” Wilson said. “We should start seeing containment come up pretty quick (Friday).”

The fire is burning in some of the same country where the 1996 Fork fire blackened more than 83,000 acres, much of it federal forest land, though the blaze came within 1½ miles of Upper Lake.

Fire officials continued to add personnel and resources to bring the Elk fire under control, Wilson said. If the lines hold, “we’ll turn the corner on it very quickly,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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