A rapidly spreading wildfire burned homes and forced thousands to evacuate in two heavily wooded counties northeast of Sacramento in Northern California on Wednesday, generating a towering plume of smoke visible from at least 70 miles (110 km) away.
The wildfire, which has been dubbed “River Fire” scorched 1,400 acres (566 hectares) in Placer and Nevada counties, with 1,000 acres burnt within the first two hours, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. The River Fire was not at all contained, but officials said they expected cooler overnight weather and a reversal of the wind direction to help. At least four homes were destroyed in Colfax, a Placer County town of 2,000 people about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Sacramento, according to a Reuters witness.
At least 2,400 people had evacuated their homes in Placer County, and another 4,200 people were under evacuation orders in Nevada County, fire and law enforcement officials told a news conference. Evacuation centers were established in both counties, and an animal shelter for pets was set up at a fairground.
“If you received an evacuation warning, please go. If you received an order, get out,” Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell told the news conference. “Our hearts are with our communities, our friends, our neighbors who have been impacted by this incident,” Bell said.
Carrie Levine, a fire ecologist from nearby Grass Valley, said her family had evacuated even without an official warning because the fire was moving so fast. “There’s a big column of smoke. It’s pretty dark, kind of like a purple, gray, eerie smoke. It’s in a pretty steep river canyon, and they really like to just blow up river canyons with the wind,” said Levine, who studies fire fuels and develops models for a private company.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SF CHRONICLE