Shifting winds fueling destructive 11,500-acre Pawnee Fire in Lake County

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Shifting winds fueling destructive 11,500-acre Pawnee Fire in Lake County
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Cal Fire says the fire burned a lot overnight -- 11,500 acres with just 5 percent containment.

CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 1,400 firefighters are working to stop the Pawnee Fire tearing through Lake County. Cal Fire says the fire burned a lot overnight -- 11,500 acres with just 5 percent containment.

RELATED: ABC7's 7 On Your Side to help Pawnee Fire victims in Lake County's Clearlake

The flames, fueled by shifting winds, are swallowing up homes. The blaze is growing and proving hard to fight.

Twenty-two structures have been destroyed and 600 remain threatened, and there's a mandatory evacuation order for the Spring Valley community.

VIDEO: Pawnee Fire rages through Lake County

There was a break for firefighters on Tuesday afternoon. A change in the wind turned the Pawnee Fire back on itself. But there's been a spectacle all day long.

Begin with heavy artillery. A DC-10 aerial tanker flew so low that it disappeared behind a mountain before rising up again, a few seconds later, with its cargo delivered.

This attack by air is just one element, with others on the ground fighting for every yard as the Pawnee Fire moved south on Tuesday.

PHOTOS: Pawnee Fire rages through Lake County

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Firefighters battle the Pawnee Fire in Lake County, Calif. on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Fire departments from around the Bay Area, including Alameda County, Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward and Oakland, have sent crews to battle the blaze.

Humidity dropped into the teens and winds rose into the 20s. A few miles away, evacuees waited out the worst, relying on clues, word of mouth and a map showing the danger area.

Charmaine Weldon has been evacuated every year, the seven years she has lived here. So far, her four-bedroom home in Spring Valley is OK.

"We know how to get up and pack out," she said. It's a skill you wouldn't necessarily want. But it is necessary in Lake County, where this seems to have become the new normal.

One resident said he's seen so much of this, he's worried about not being worried.


Evacuation orders have been issued for the Double Eagle Ranch area. Officials say there is "significant fire activity" threatening the area, so residents have been strongly advised to get out now. A shelter has been established at Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake Street in Lower Lake. The shelter will accept large and companion animals.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the entire Spring Valley subdivision of Clearlake Oaks, Cal Fire said. The latest evacuation information can be found here.

Around 4 p.m. Sunday, officials expanded the mandatory evacuation area past Highway 20 to the north and east of Old Long Valley Road to Round Ball Road. The areas include Mule Skinner, Long Branch, Watertrough Road, Fintlock, Muzzleloader, No Guns, Antelope, Cougar, Marianne, Ramrod, and Moccasin in Lake County. Officials expanded the road closures Tuesday to include State Route 20 at Bear Valley Road, Bear Valley Road at Brim Road and Leesville Lodge Road at Brim Road in Colusa County. The intersections of State Route 20 at Old Long Valley Road, New Long Valley Road, Walker Ridge and Mule Skinner Road in Lake County were closed as well.

Some residents only escaped with the clothing on their backs. Luckily a family ABC7 News talked to was able to get their cat out of their home as well.

Officials say to please remember your pets, personal belongings, computers, prescriptions, photos, paperwork, and phones if time allows. Please try to close all windows and doors as well when you evacuatee.

An evacuation center has been established at Lower Lake High School, located at 9430 Lake Street. The Red Cross is gearing up to handle up to 300 evacuees.

Sheriff Martin added that there is an alternative evacuation site at the Moose Lodge, which is located at the junction of Highway 53 and Highway 20. The lodge, which has a bar, restaurant, and can handle animals, is very popular with locals when fires break out.

Officials are encouraging anyone in the area to conserve water so that firefighters can use it to fight the fast-growing blaze.

There are multiple road closures in and around the Spring Valley subdivision. More than 20 engines have been dispatched to contain the blaze, as well as two helicopters and several air tankers. The fire is being driven by low relative humidity, strong winds, Cal Fire said.

Click here for more information on Brown's state of emergency.

Get the latest on the Pawnee Fire here.