Firefighters battle wildfire in Lake County near Kelseyville

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A fire that ignited in Lake County on Saturday spread to more than 50 acres, threatened more than 100 structures and prompted evacuation orders, with fire officials planning to work through the night and into Sunday to extinguish the blaze.

The Oak fire, which started near Kelseyville at about 2 p.m., ignited near Highway 29 and Cole Creek Road, according to Cal Fire. It broke out in vegetation despite forecasts of unseasonably cool and damp weather, stirring 128 fire personnel and more than 30 vehicles including six air tankers as well as CHP and PG&E in response.

“There’s a little bit of wind out of the west,” Cal Fire spokesman Bruce Lang said. “It’s not too bad, but that’s what pushed the fire” from grass into brush and then into oak woodland. The wildfire had spread to 53 acres and was 50% contained by 7 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders for stretches of Highway 29, Cole Creek Road and Live Oak Drive in southern Kelseyville, asking residents to “please leave the area immediately.” The Sheriff’s Office downgraded those orders to warnings around 5 p.m.

Crews with Cal Fire and the local firefighting districts for Kelseyville, Lake County, South Lake County, Lakeport, and Northshore rushed to the area in hopes of preventing the blaze from burning about 150 nearby structures, Lang said.

“They’re getting a pretty good handle on things,” Lang said. “We’ll be out here all night and then probably all day tomorrow.”

No deaths or injuries had been reported, but one structure of an unknown type was destroyed, Lang said. Live Oak Drive was closed as well as a stretch of Highway 29, and Cal Fire said that all roads were expected to be open by 10 p.m.

Ryan Sonneville, a Santa Rosa middle-school social studies teacher resident visiting relatives in Kelseyville, went onto his in-laws’ rooftop at about 3 p.m., which is when he said most of their neighbors noticed of the fire’s plumes of smoke. The smoke had died down considerably a couple hours later, he said.

“Obviously, everyone’s a little spooked from fires out here,” he said. “This time of year, it’s almost an anniversary.”

The Valley fire, the first of a series of massive wildfires to hit Lake County in recent years, broke out Sept. 12, 2015, a Saturday afternoon, in Cobb, a few miles southeast of Kelseyville.

The area’s relatively cool weather — highs reached 75 degrees near Kelseyville and 78 in Santa Rosa — should have been good news for firefighters. Kelseyville’s westerly winds were steady about 8 mph with gusts around 15 mph for most of the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

There were no red flag fire warnings effective in or near the Bay Area, and Cal Fire in the morning canceled a personnel hold related to lightning strikes from earlier in the week, Lang said.

The Oak fire is the latest in a string of south Clear Lake wildfires over the last month.

A handful of vegetation fires, collectively called the Glass fire, ignited Wednesday along Highway 29. The burning reached about 28 acres before firefighters were able to work in relatively cool and damp overnight conditions to extinguish all the hot spots by Thursday.

The Golf fire, which state fire investigators traced to a cigarette, broke out in early August near subdivisions on Clear Lake’s southwestern shore. Firefighters needed a few days before fully containing the blaze.

This article includes information from Staff Writer Guy Kovner.

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