• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

Lake County residents allowed to return home

August 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire crews took defensive actions on day two in their fight against two raging wildfires in Lake County. The fires chased nearly 500 people from their homes in communities around Clear Lake, but they were allowed to return late Monday night. The so-called "Wye" and "Walker" fires have burned about 11 square miles since Sunday afternoon. Fire crews say their focus is on defending homes and creating fire containment lines.

The fires have consumed 6,000 acres and containment is just 25 percent. The good news is that the fire has been heading east, away from life and property. That allowed evacuees of the Spring Valley subdivision of Clearlake Oaks to briefly return to their homes.

As for the hundreds of other evacuees, many of them spent the day at the Moose Lodge where they waited for updates. They finally got the news they wanted to hear. At 8 p.m., residents were allowed to go back for good. They lined up on Highway 20, eager to get home.

But while the worst appears to be over, CAL FIRE says there's still a lot of work to do, especially east near the Walker Ridge area. That's where most of the active flames are.

The Walker Fire was the most visible and the most dramatic Monday morning, but it was burning in an unpopulated area and no homes were destroyed. Still, in triple-digit heat, fire can move fast. "Around here, we're a zone 10. So, sometimes it goes about four and a half acres in about two minutes," Sara Douglas said. Douglas runs the Oasis Bar and Grill on Highway 20 which is located right between the two fires. "Here it's scary," she said. Douglas says the fire everyone is worried about is the Wye Fire "because of all the people they've had to evacuate out of Spring Valley."

In Spring Valley, most of the people left Sunday afternoon, in a hurry. "What I'm giving you is my word as the information officer representing the incident management team, that your issues and your concerns are our issues and our concerns," CAL FIRE Batt. Chief Mike Carr said. Carr tried to reassure residents of Spring Valley Monday afternoon that they would get the latest information on their homes.

"I want to go home. I'm afraid I'm going to lose my house," Rene Willie of Spring Valley told ABC7 News. Willie had just five minutes to get out of his place Sunday. It was the same for Al and Donna Barker. "I grabbed my purse, the dog, and we left," Donna said. The Barkers and a lot of their neighbors are now hanging out at the Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks. A local pizza shop brought over lunch and a nearby store donated some water.

The fire crews are getting a leg up on the Wye Fire because of the weather. It's hot, but Sunday's strong winds have died, although too late for Roger Hue de Laroque. "If you look around, it's just total devastation. It's completely burned down," he told ABC7 News as he surveyed the land.

Highway 20 is open, but it is restricted. Motorists need to be escorted by the CHP.

Donation Information:
The American Red Cross is accepting donations to help people affected by the fires in Lake County. Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation or mail donations to American Red Cross, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties, 5297 Aero Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Load Comments