Shifting Winds Push Smoke from California Sierra Fire

By | September 11, 2007

Shifting winds sent smoke from a growing wildfire in the remote northeast Sierra Nevada back toward the San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco Bay area on Sunday, officials said.

Wind gusts pushed the flames toward the south and southwest as the blaze in the Plumas National Forest topped 52,000 acres, or more than 81 square miles, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The fire remained just 16 percent contained, and more than 2,700 firefighters struggled to dampen the flames and bulldoze fire lines as winds began picking up Sunday, Forest Service spokesman Mark Beaulieu said.

The massive smoke plumes that had prompted haze and health warnings in cities hundreds of miles away last week had largely dissipated by Saturday. But wind gusts were expected to reach up to 30 mph by Sunday afternoon, Beaulieu said.

Mandatory evacuations remained for 50 to 100 people in the North Arm of Indian Valley and other small communities, though residents were being allowed to return as necessary to care for livestock, officials said. Residents of nearby Genesee and Taylorsville were advised but not required to leave their homes as the fire headed toward them, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mark Beaulieu said.

The fire has destroyed an unoccupied summer home, trailer and small shed since it began Monday.

In Santa Clara County, more than 1,700 firefighters were expected to contain a blaze Sunday night that had burned more than 47,000 acres in Henry W. Coe State Park south of San Jose, said California Department of Forestry spokesman Guy Martin.

The weeklong blaze has destroyed three cabins and two small structures and injured four firefighters, Martin said.

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