Sonoma County Blaze Slows; Southern California Fire Prompts Evacuations

An infusion of fresh manpower helped firefighters almost fully contain a wildfire that had burned across more than 12,500 acres and destroyed four homes in Northern California's wine country.


GEYSERVILLE, Calif. (AP) -- An infusion of fresh manpower helped firefighters almost fully contain a wildfire that had burned across more than 12,500 acres and destroyed four homes in Northern California's wine country.

Cooler, moist air that had been forecast for the region failed to materialize Tuesday, but the extra personnel more than compensated for the poor weather, said Janet Marshall, spokeswoman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

With more than 2,600 firefighters on the front lines, up from 1,110 a day earlier, officials said the blaze in Sonoma and Lake counties was 90 percent contained Tuesday night, up from just 35 percent the night before.

``There is a saying that many hands make light work, and while this certainly isn't light work, the extra help has allowed us to make great strides and progress,'' Marshall said.

Full containment of the fire, in uneven and often steep terrain, was not expected until Wednesday, she said.

Elsewhere, a fiery crash Tuesday afternoon on the main highway linking Southern California to Las Vegas sparked a blaze that by Wednesday morning had spread across 1,500 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest. The flames began near Interstate 15 and eventually prompted the evacuation of more than 500 people from scattered ranch homes about 10 miles north of San Bernardino, said forest spokeswoman Robin Renteria.

The Runway fire was 40 percent contained by Wednesday morning. There were no reports of damage or injuries as about 575 firefighters battle the blaze, aided by six air tankers and five helicopters.

Temperatures were expected to reach the high 90s Wednesday, making it more difficult for firefighters, Renteria said.

The northern California blaze started Friday about 60 miles north of San Francisco and has fed on tinder-dry brush, with flames driven by dry, unpredictable wind. Authorities initially were concerned that the fire would threaten the vineyard area of Sonoma's Alexander Valley, but the fire shifted directions from south to east. The vineyards aren't considered threatened now, Marshall said.

In addition to the four vacation homes, the fire had destroyed eight outbuildings and an electrical equipment storage vault owned by a local utility, Marshall said. About 40 residents had been evacuated.