August 14, 2015 by Manuel Valdes and Yara Bishara - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOWER LAKE, Calif. – Mountain-town dwellers who had to evacuate – some for the second time in days – were breathing a bit easier as firefighters took major steps toward controlling the latest wildfire in this area 100 miles north of San Francisco.
Fire crews – with the help of a firebreak cleared by her husband – saved the summer home in Lower Lake of Nicole Ruff, who twice fled separate fires in the past week with her family.
“This is something I’ve never experienced before,” the 25-year-old Ruff said. “It made me rethink everything in life.”
The most recent fire broke out Sunday, and by late Thursday had burned 38 square miles of thick brush and oak trees in Lake and Napa counties. It is 50 per cent contained.
The earlier fire, much larger at 109 square miles, broke out July 29 and destroyed 43 homes. It is now 95 per cent contained.
The causes of both were under investigation.
Ruff and her family left their home for the second time on Saturday and later learned it had been saved. She is currently in Oroville with her three children waiting for the fire to be contained.
Her husband was still in Lake County after volunteering to help fight the blaze, which 2,000 firefighters were taking on, most of them redirected from the earlier fire.
They are among 14 wildfires in California being fought by about 12,000 firefighters, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Elsewhere, evacuations were ordered in northern Idaho and a massive fire straddling the Idaho-Oregon border grew to 340 square miles.
At least 15 square miles of primary sage grouse habitat has burned. Habitat will be a key consideration this fall when federal officials are expected to decide if the birds need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In eastern Oregon, Interstate 84 near Baker City was closed temporarily in the afternoon because of a wildfire. Also, officials said residents of 57 homes were under evacuation orders and dozens more were told to be ready to leave as two wildfires burned near Baker City. Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act, mobilizing fire crews from across the state to protect the threatened structures.
Bishara reported from Phoenix. AP writers Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.