s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

The Pawnee fire raging east of Clear Lake grew up to 11,500 acres on Tuesday morning, and containment remained at 5 percent, according the Cal Fire. No new structures reportedly burned overnight, leaving the amount at 22 — 12 homes and 10 outbuildings — and 600 structures still are threatened. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake County on Monday.

The fire force from Monday morning to Tuesday morning grew substantially with 1,422 people now on the fire up from 237, according to Cal Fire’s morning update.

Here’s the latest:

3:45 p.m.

Fire officials hoping to slow the progress of the 11,500-acre Pawnee fire in Lake County are relying heavily on help from the air and on the ground, utilizing aircraft, bulldozers and more than 500 firefighters working by hand to carve fire lines in steep, rugged terrain.

The fire has moved out of the Spring Valley community, where it started Saturday, and on Tuesday was moving mostly east and south into more sparsely populated but very challenging landscape filled with dry grass, brush and oak woodlands.

More than 1,400 firefighters were on the lines by Tuesday morning, with more arriving through the day. Assigned resources included 35 hand crews, 58 bulldozers, 15 helicopters and air tankers dropping retardant, though the air tankers come and go to different wildfires where needed, Cal Fire officials said.

“It’s a lot of steep ground, unstable ground. Hard to get your footing,” Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said. “The ‘dozers can work in certain areas and the hand crews can work in certain areas that the dozers can’t.”

Though burning in an area with less dense development, officials warned the fire still had rural communities in its path. They included the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision between Indian Valley Reservoir and Highway 20, and areas east of Walker Ridge and along the western Colusa County border.

North Lake Fire Chief Jay Beristianos described Double Eagle Ranch as a very rural community of 30-to-50-homes without fire hydrants or maintained roads.

“Part of the fire brushed by the subdivision last night,” he said Tuesday.

He said crews were out during the night to prepare for a potential firefight there, cutting lines and ensuring that equipment could get in and out.

2:20 p.m.

Fire crews trying to get a handle on the Pawnee fire in Lake County were getting a little help from the weather on Tuesday, with slightly lower wind speeds and temperatures and a small boost in relative humidity, the National Weather Service said.

Conditions for the next day or so should be relatively favorable to the firefight, or at least “going in the right direction, not a real improvement, but a little bit of improvement,” meteorologist Mike Kochasic said.

But the weather service already has issued a fire weather watch for the weekend, when temperatures are predicted to reach back up into the triple digits and forecasters expect to see the return of gusty conditions that contributed to the wildfire’s rapid spread on Sunday.

With 5 percent containment so far and no guarantee that short-term forecasts will hold true, the outlook for getting some containment on the fire before the next red flag warning remained uncertain. Winds forecast to be light on Monday turned out to be gusting and erratic, which meant both wind and fire direction were “super unpredictable,” Kochasic said.

“I have high hopes we’ll be able to put some control lines and hold this thing,” Northshore Fire Chief Jay Beristianos said Tuesday.

But what’s clear, said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean, is “the fire is going to get bigger before it’s done.”

That means people under evacuation orders need to get to safety and leave firefighters to battle the flames, he said.

1 p.m.

The Pawnee fire remained on the move Tuesday, cutting east around the south end of Indian Valley Reservoir, prompting new road closures and evacuation warnings for rural areas in west Colusa County, authorities said.

The Colusa County Sheriff’s Office is asking residents in the areas of Wilbur Springs, Bear Valley, Brim Road and east of Walker Ridge to be ready to leave in case evacuation becomes necessary, particularly if afternoon winds kick up, Lt. Mark Contreras said. “We don’t have word about mandatory evacuations yet,” he said. “It’s going to depend on exactly if it pushes north east or south east.”

Contreras said deputies already had been in close communication for several days with residents of the sparsely populated area, and many already had chosen to leave as the fire raged on.

The evacuation warning came as Cal Fire ordered additional road blocks in the same vicinity to prevent anyone from entering the region. Hard closures were announced at State Route 20 at Bear Valley Road, Bear Valley Road at Brim Road, and Leesville Lodge Road at Brim Road.

11:30 a.m.

Residents evacuated by the Pawnee fire can pick up their postal mail after 12 p.m. Tuesday at the Clearlake Oaks Post Office, 13280 E. Highway 20. Postal officials said residents must present a valid ID before they can retrieve their mail.

Officials said this includes all residents in the Spring Valley and surrounding area affected by fire evacuation orders.

11: 15 a.m.

Local residents who receive CalFresh and have been affected by the Pawnee fire may have a portion of their CalFresh benefits replaced. Residents must request replacement benefits by July 4.

To request replacement benefits, please contact us the Lake County Department of Social Services at (800) 628-5288, or visit the county agency at 15975 Anderson Ranch Parkway, Lower Lake, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

8 a.m.

Improving weather Tuesday for battling the effort included 90 percent humidity by late Tuesday, and northeast winds would be about 10 mph, said National Weather Service Sacramento Meterologist Dan Keeton.

“The higher the humidity, the less favorable it is for fires to burn,” Keeton said. “Generally speaking, the winds are a little more favorable this morning.”

The weather in Lake County Tuesday morning ranged from the upper 60s to lower 70s, and the high for the day will be in the lower 90s, Keeton said.

“The heat of the day is always a concern, but the higher humidity should help,” Emily Smith, Cal Fire Public Information Officer, said. More firefighters and fire crews arrived Monday night to help with the Pawnee Fire.

By the end of the week, drying winds and lower humidity is expected in Lake County, Keeton said.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707‑521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@susanmini.