County Fire nearly 60 percent contained, hot and dry conditions expected this week

Firefighters have contained nearly 60 percent of the massive County Fire burning in Yolo and Napa counties, which has chewed through roughly 90,000 acres since it started June 30, while newer wildfires in the state rage on.

A wave of heat and low humidity now settling over the region is contributing to difficult conditions for crews battling the County Fire, but progress has been made nonetheless, especially in the evening hours, said Blanca Mercado, a spokeswoman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

The fire had burned 88,525 acres and destroyed 15 structures as of Sunday morning, and crews had reached 57 percent containment, up 20 percent since Friday.

“They got in a lot of work the last couple of days because the weather at night has been somewhat helpful for us, with high relative humidity with a little bit more moisture in the air,” Mercado said Sunday.

Mandatory evacuations were still in place for areas west of State Highway 16 to Berryessa Knoxville Road, south of Old County Road 40, north of County Road 53, west of State Highway 16 to the Yolo/Lake County Line, north of County Road 40, and south of the Yolo County line, according to Cal Fire.

Evacuation orders had been lifted along the eastern shore of Lake Berryessa, east to the Napa/Yolo County Line, north of State Highway 128, and south of the intersection of East Side Road and Knoxville Berryessa Road.

No deaths or significant injuries had been reported as a result of the County Fire, Mercado said.

The daytime conditions at the start of this week may not bode well for crews, Mercado said, as a “hot mass” of high pressure will keep the temperatures elevated and the humidity low into the middle of the week.

Temperatures in parts of Yolo County were expected to reach the upper 90s on Sunday, touching as high as 99 degrees Monday through Wednesday, and Napa County was expected to be in the mid-90s during that same span, according to the National Weather Service.

Mercado said a big concern from fire officials during the hot and dry conditions is the potential for new fires to spark.

“The weather is pretty ripe for us to get a new start,” Mercado said. “When the humidities are this low, the chances of having a start of any sort take off.”

She said people in hot and dry areas should use extra caution to avoid accidentally sparking a fire. Lawn mowing or other garden work with any mechanized equipment should only be done in the early morning or early evenings, when temperatures are lower.

Also, people barbecuing at home should ensure their grills are completely clear of eaves or awnings. “Just be careful with what you’re doing, don’t leave anything unattended,” she said.

Smoke from the Klamathon Fire is visible off the Hilt Road exit of Interstate 5 southbound in California, near the state’s border with Oregon. (Rex Crum/Bay Area News Group) 

More than 2,800 firefighters were actively working the County Fire on Sunday, and some crews had been sent to new fires in other parts of the state over the past few days.

“We did a couple days of emergency demobilization of equipment to get up and help with the Klamathon Fire,” Mercado said, referring to the wildfire burning at California’s border with Oregon.

That blaze, which started on Thursday in Siskiyou County, has torn through 30,500 acres, killed one person, destroyed 72 structures, and was 25 percent contained Sunday morning. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday for Siskiyou County, citing “extreme peril” to people and property.

Some resources also were sent to assist with the smaller Irish Fire, which started Friday and had burned nearly 800 acres in Amador County, east of Sacramento. It was 95 percent contained on Sunday morning.

Some crews were pulled off duty from the Pawnee Fire — which had burned 15,185 acres in Lake County since June 23, but was 96 percent contained on Sunday — and sent to aid with fighting the northern portion of the County Fire, where “steep and inaccessible terrain” has posed challenges for firefighters.

Damage inspection teams have begun to survey areas where “fire activity has diminished,” according to Cal Fire, so a more accurate count of structures destroyed by the fire could be available soon.

For questions regarding Yolo County evacuations or advisories, residents can dial 211. Napa County residents can text their ZIP Code to 888777 for updates, according to Cal Fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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