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Oak fire in Mendocino County grows to 863 acres, 5% contained

A 13-mile section of Highway 101 just north of Willits in Mendocino County remains closed as Cal Fire crews battle the Oak fire Tuesday.

The fire was reported along the west side of the highway Monday around 12:15 p.m. and grew quickly along both sides, forcing the evacuation of about 3,700 people by Tuesday, Cal Fire spokeswoman Tricia Austin said.

Two structures have been confirmed destroyed, but crews expect that number to rise when damage assessments can be made.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire had blackened 863 acres and was five percent contained.

The southern border of the fire, just north of Willits, was a focus Tuesday as crews planned to use an existing road and a recently started vegetation management program to create a containment line.

“Toward the bottom is close to the township of Brooktrails, where we’re building contingency lines too,” she said. “There are still some pretty active portions of the fire.’

The cooler Tuesday morning weather is helping, she said, but crews were steeling themselves for possible winds this afternoon and evening in the deep ravines and wooded areas.

“We’re definitely concerned about this afternoon when that clears and we have the north winds and the heat,” she said. “This is extremely rugged territory, some areas are only able to be accessed by hand crews. We are not able to get the dozers in there.”

Highway 101 was closed Monday night and there was no estimated reopening time.

Austin said the roadway is vulnerable to trees damaged in the fire and there is active fire along the highway.

“The concern is that those trees could fall onto roadway and cause harm,” she said.

Cal Fires have tree fallers coming in Tuesday to remove some of the hazardous vegetation.

There are bypasses, but they are long and involved. Drivers could use Highway 1 between Leggett and Fort Bragg, then connecting to 101 via Highway 20.

To see current evacuations, go here.

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