Horses Killed, Homes Destroyed In Vacaville, CA Grass Fires

VACAVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ Eight horses were killed and more than a half dozen homes burned Friday as gusty winds fanned several wildfires across Northern California.

In Vacaville, 32 miles southwest of Sacramento, a 30-acre grassfire destroyed a farmhouse and several barns, killing eight horses. And a fire in nearby Davis jumped a highway, burned two homes and injured three people.

A wildfire in rural Rancho Calaveras, in Calaveras County, quickly spread to 1,500 acres in just a few hours, destroying four houses, numerous other buildings and forcing evacuations, said Kristine Ferreira of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Most of the state was under an extreme fire warning as low humidity conspired with strong winds and dry tinder to raise the threat of wildfires over a long weekend when people are more likely to be outdoors engaging in activities that can spark blazes.

State fire officials issued a warning to campers Thursday about fire safety and campfires were banned at some national forests and at Bureau of Land Management areas.

The causes of the fires were not immediately known.

In Davis, a grass fire that started just before 11 a.m. jumped Highway 113 near the edge of the University of California campus, closing the freeway for several hours and burning two houses.

Winds gusting up to 30 mph pushed the fire toward a neighborhood of single family homes, where it burned backyard fences, charred eucalyptus trees and damaged two homes, said Jack Hickey, operations chief with the Davis Fire Department.

A firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and two civilians who fought the blaze were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. None of the injuries was serious, Hickey said.

Sacramento defense lawyer Charles Bonneau came home to find firefighters hacking at the roof of his six-bedroom home with axes and a chain saw.

``I think this is what they call a total loss,'' said Bonneau, who raised seven sons in the house. ``There's a lot of memories here, but we'll rebuild it.''

The family dog, Lucky, was huddled under a minivan in the driveway as Bonneau fielded calls from family members and watched firefighters carry piles of clothing out a second floor window.

He said he was concerned about the family cat, a former stray they took in after a neighbor's house burned down a decade ago. The downstairs of the house was just remodeled, a gift from his stepson, San Diego Chargers noseguard Jason Fisk.

Hickey said another house in the neighborhood received minor damage.

CDF did not have a containment figure on the Rancho Calaveras fire as it burned into the evening. A 400-acre fire to the south that destroyed at least two structures in Mariposa County was 70 percent contained, a CDF spokeswoman said.

The Mariposa fire started Thursday at a residential development and spread quickly over dry, uneven terrain, forcing hundreds of evacuations.

One home, one outbuilding, and four cars were destroyed.

The CDF and the Mariposa County Sheriff's Department said the fire may be the work of an arsonist suspected in eight grass fires in the area. Officials offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arsonist's capture.