Crews make progress on Golf fire in Lake County

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Firefighters on Friday gained control of a wildfire that sparked on the southwest shore of Clear Lake earlier this week, holding the blaze at 20 acres and increasing containment to 75%, Cal Fire said.

The Golf fire, which broke out Thursday near the Buckingham Golf Course, was downsized from the 33 acres reported Friday morning after daytime mapping yielded a more accurate estimate of its size, the agency said.

The progress allowed hundreds of residents to return to their homes on Friday afternoon, when authorities lifted evacuations for the area at about 1:15 p.m., Lake County sheriff’s Lt. Rich Ward said.

Residents of the 250-home Riviera West neighborhood had been ordered to leave their homes about 2:20 p.m. Thursday, less than 90 minutes after the fire started. Two nearby subdivisions, Riviera Heights and Buckingham Park, had been been advised to evacuate.

Most street closures were canceled Friday. Soda Bay Road remained closed to the public between Little Borax Lake and Crystal Drive, where the road was reserved for emergency vehicle use, according to Ward.

Firefighters were challenged by thick brush and steep terrain, but planned to work throughout the evening to quell the flames, Cal Fire spokesman Will Powers said.

“The fire is not progressing, it’s just burning in that general area,” Powers said, though he advised residents to be prepared in case of a change. “Always be ready to go and always visit our website.”

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 70s in lower Clear Lake on Saturday and the high 80s on Sunday, with calm winds both days, according to the National Weather Service.

The origin of the fire was still under investigation Friday, though rumors swirled among residents after several people reported seeing a group of uniformed workers in the area the morning of the fire.

Connor Snyder, a Riviera Heights resident of two years, said she saw the group at 11 a.m. and again shortly before 1 p.m. as she drove on Soda Bay Road to and from work. Members of the group, outfitted in yellow helmets and jackets, were surrounded by bundles of what appeared to be tree branches and tree limbs.

“Not even 20 minutes after I got home, I learned about the fire and I went ‘whoa,’ and immediately flashed to those fire crews,” Snyder said. “They were laying on their backs and some of them looked like they were sleeping. I assumed they were on their lunch.”

Cal Fire would not confirm whether any crews were working in the area prior to the fire’s start, or divulge if that was part of the current investigation, said Cal Fire Fire Capt. Robert Foxworthy, an agency spokesman. More information would be available once the fire investigation was finished, he said, a process that could take several weeks or months.

“All possible scenarios are being investigated,” Foxworthy said. “I’ve heard a bunch of rumors about a bunch of crews in the area. ... We’re not putting that out right now until the investigation is complete.”

Thursday’s blaze was the first wildfire of the year in Lake County, according to Cal Fire. It started Thursday at 1 p.m. near the Riviera West and Buckingham Park subdivisions on Clear Lake’s southwestern shore, growing to 19 acres by that evening.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. restored power to about 260 customers in the area by about noon Friday, less than 24 hours after the utility initially blocked power to the area at the request of fire officials, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said. PG&E crews inspected power lines for tree limbs or other objects before re-energizing the lines.

No injuries or damaged structures were reported, though the blaze continued to threaten 40 structures as of Friday afternoon, Cal Fire said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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