California wildfires rage on busy July 4 weekend

Firefighters held back a fast-moving blaze that marched to the edge of the rural northern California neighbourhood of Winters on Saturday, saving about 40 homes during a busy July 4 holiday weekend that saw several destructive fires across the state.

State officials brace for more fires in coming days

Firefighters held back a fast-moving blaze that marched to the edge of the rural northern California neighbourhood of Winters on Saturday, saving about 40 homes during a busy July 4 holiday weekend that saw several destructive fires across the state.

Tinder dry conditions and rising temperatures fuelled the fire on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa, which quickly consumed about 21 square kilometres of rolling hillsides by Golden Bear Estates, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. The fire was just 15 per cent contained.

"The fire burned right up to the homes," he said. "The firefighters took a stand and were able to protect the homes as it was raging through the neighbourhood."

Berlant said firefighters battling another blaze northwest of Lake Berryessa were being reassigned to attack the so-called Monticello Fire, which erupted Friday night near the Monticello Dam that forms the manmade lake. That fire was 70 per cent contained after burning nearly 18 square kilometres and destroying two homes. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze.

Lake Berryessa, about 120 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, is a popular recreation spot attracting many boaters and campers during the July 4 weekend.

Further north, a fire tore through the tiny community of Collinsville along the Sacramento River on Friday, destroying eight homes and damaging three more, Chief Joe Rosewall of the Montezuma Fire District in Solano County said.

The fire is out, but 25 residents are without homes and it caused an estimated $2.5 million US in damage, Rosewall said.

Firefighters in Julian injured 

Meanwhile, in southern California, a fire near the mountain town of Julian that had destroyed two homes was 90 per cent contained Saturday after burning about 90 hectares.

Four firefighters were injured, state fire Capt. KendalBortisser said. The extent of their injuries wasn't immediately clear, and the cause of the fire in central San Diego County was under investigation.

It broke out Thursday, prompting the mandatory evacuation of 200 homes and forcing the cancellation of the town's Fourth of July parade and celebration.

The lingering threat of the fire and the need to use roads for the firefight forced the city to take the year off from the festive celebration that usually draws 3,000 to 5,000 people.

State fire officials said they were bracing for more fires over the next couple of days.

"The holiday weekend is in full swing," Berlant said. "There's still a potential for more fires if the public is not careful." 

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