At least 150 people evacuated as wind pushes California fire

A wildfire burns in Napa County, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Erratic winds fanned a wildfire burning through rugged hills in Northern California on Wednesday, pushing the flames across counties and chasing people from their homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A wildfire burns in Napa County, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Erratic winds fanned a wildfire burning through rugged hills in Northern California on Wednesday, pushing the flames across counties and chasing people from their homes. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

LOWER LAKE, Calif. (AP) – Erratic winds Wednesday fanned a wildfire burning through rugged hills in Northern California that has driven people from their homes and pushed the flames across two counties.

At least 150 people have evacuated their homes since Sunday. Many in the region about 100 miles north of San Francisco had only recently returned after fleeing an earlier blaze.

Crews lit backfires Wednesday along a road elsewhere in the region as plumes of black and white smoke rose into the sky.

The fire had expanded across 32 square miles and crews had the flames just 16 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Full containment wasn’t expected until Monday.

The fire began in dry timber and brush Sunday several miles from the community of Lower Lake. It leapt from Lake County into Napa County, but no vineyards were threatened in the famous wine-growing region.

Empire Mini Storage manager Desiree Mcalear said the business in Middletown has had numerous calls and visits from people who want to rent units in case they have to evacuate.

“They’re absolutely scared and terrified,” she said. “If the winds decide to blow this way, then we all need to take action. Right now, we have the luxury of waiting and being patient.”

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze that was threatening 50 structures. No homes have been destroyed, and no injuries have been reported.

Meanwhile, firefighters have nearly surrounded a larger nearby blaze that started about two weeks ago and destroyed 43 homes.

The causes of both fires remain under investigation.

Temperatures have been relatively mild, but the gusty winds and dry conditions have stoked the wildfires.

In Southern California, evacuation orders were lifted as crews continued to surround a small wildfire sparked by a burning motor home in rural Riverside County.

One person from the motor home was burned, officials said. Three firefighters were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

The blaze about halfway between Temecula and Palm Desert had been held to 450 acres and was 70 percent contained, with full containment expected Friday, state fire officials said.

Statewide, 16 active wildfires were burning and being fought by more than 11,000 firefighters.

____

Associated Press writers Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco and Yara Bishara in Phoenix contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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