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Mendocino County lightning fires burn more than 500 acres

Lightning-triggered fires burning in a rugged wilderness area in northern Mendocino County had consumed more than 500 acres by Thursday night.

β€œIt is growing,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Julie Cooley said of the Wilderness Lodge area fires, which first were reported at 6:27 a.m. Wednesday.

Firefighting efforts are being hampered by tinder-dry conditions, high temperatures, heavy timber and steep terrain, she said. As of Thursday night, it was about 5 percent contained.

The battle has been largely restricted to air attacks because the area is difficult to access, she said. But ground crews, comprised mostly of inmates, Thursday were constructing containment lines, Cooley said.

The Lodge Lightning Complex currently is comprised of two fires in the Elkhorn Ridge wilderness area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Two other fires that were ignited in the Laytonville area the same day have been fully contained, Cooley said.

Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management and Laytonville fire department are battling the blaze, along with Cal Fire and crews from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Cooley said. The effort on Thursday included three air tankers, five helicopters, 10 engines, three water tenders and more than 450 firefighters.

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