Calaveras fire forces evacuations and threatens water supply |

Calaveras fire forces evacuations and threatens water supply


SACRAMENTO (AP) – A 1,850-acre wildfire burning in Calaveras County west of Yosemite National Park Thursday forced evacuations from nine communities and threatened the water supply to four towns.

The Darby Fire, which broke out Wednesday afternoon, was burning heavy brush and timber about two miles from the small Hathaway Pines community 25 miles northwest of Yosemite.

The fire threatened 500 homes, 50 businesses and 100 outbuildings and was 10 percent contained Thursday evening, fire officials said.

It was one of two major wildfires that had burned more than 14,000 acres of brush and timber in Northern California, said Karen Terrill, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry. Another smaller fire in Butte County forced evacuations Thursday morning.

The Darby Fire forced evacuations in about 150 homes in the nine communities and one area was put on alert. At least 60 people spent the night at an evacuation center set up at a nearby elementary school in the town of Murphys.

”It was a 4 in the morning, grab-the-dog-and-go type of thing,” said Kelly Osborn, principal of Albert Michelson Elementary School.

The wildfire had destroyed a portion of an aboveground canal that provides water to four communities – Angels, Vallecito, Douglas Flat and Murphys, leaving residents with an estimated two-day storage of water, officials said. They were advised to limit water use.

Retired nurse Marie Heimback left her home Wednesday afternoon in Sunrise Point, where residents were forced to evacuate. ”I was looking out of the window and saw smoke coming down the canyon … Then the fire department came by and gave me 10 minutes to pack a few things.”

Heimback, who has lived in Sunrise Point for 22 years, said, ”It’s a little bit scary but we’ve been through this before. We hope for the best.”

So too was 12-year-old Hilary Schwartz, who evacuated her Forest Meadows home with her family under an orange and red sky that ”was really smoky.” They managed to grab some personal belongings and their pets – two dogs, two cats, a bird and a hamster.

Some 820 firefighters dug into steep, rocky terrain, using bulldozers, chain saws and shovels to strip away heavy brush and cut down trees to make a line around the fire.

The blaze was 10 percent contained as of 1 p.m. Thursday, said Ben Hector, fire information officer for the California Department of Forestry. There was no estimated date for full containment.

A smaller wildfire in Butte County forced residents of more than 100 homes to evacuate in a power outage Thursday.

Called the Poe Fire, the blaze broke out Thursday morning near the small town of Jarbo Gap east of Oroville.

The fire forced evacuations in the sparsely populated Yankee Hill community, including a mobile home park, said Shannon Sanders, fire information officer for the California Department of Forestry. By Thursday evening it had grown to 1,200 acres.

A bulldozer operator was injured and airlifted from the blaze. The Poe Fire also destroyed two structures.

The blaze was 10 percent contained Thursday. The cause was unknown.

Meanwhile, a major wildfire known as the Star Fire continued to burn Thursday burning along the Middle Fork of the American River.

More than 2,100 firefighters were fighting that blaze, which had burned 12,730 acres of brush and pine as of 1 p.m. Thursday. It was 57 percent contained, with full containment estimated for Friday, said Gay Gorden, information officer for the U.S. Fire Service.

The Star Fire broke out on Aug. 26. Its cause is unknown.

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