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Saturday, December 10, 2016

By Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times

Firefighters battling the massive King fire in Northern California took advantage of favorable weather conditions this past weekend to make some progress against the blaze, with containment increasing to 17 percent overnight Sunday, officials reported.

However, shifting weather patterns early this week could generate winds similar to those that fanned the wildfire’s explosive growth last week, National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Clapp said.

The 82,000-acre fire, which has so far has destroyed at least ten homes and 22 other structures, has been burning largely out of control in the Eldorado National Forest for more than a week.

The fire, which started Sept. 13, is threatening an estimated 12,000 homes and 9,000 other “minor structures,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated from the area.

High temperatures, low humidity and forests full of extremely dry trees — the result of serious drought conditions — have contributed to the fire’s severity, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff.

In the early stages, firefighters had trouble reaching the blaze, which began in a steep, rugged canyon of the South Fork of the American River just north of Pollock Pines.

The blaze quickly raced through the rugged canyon, consuming thirsty trees and brittle vegetation. Within hours, it turned into the second-largest wildfire in California so far this year, forcing the closure of California 50 as it moved north toward Tahoe National Forest.

A 37-year-old Pollock Pines, Calif., man suspected of setting the fire, Wayne Huntsman, was arrested in Placerville late Wednesday on suspicion of arson and is being held in lieu of $10-million bail.

Four firefighters have sustained minor injuries since the fire began, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said.

AFP Photo/Mike McMillan