UPDATED: Dale Fire [CA] grows to 1,200 acres; 150 homes threatened
Record Searchlight staff
Dale Fire seen from west Redding. Photo by Candace Brown.
A fire this evening that started on Cloverdale Road in Happy Valley and moved toward West Redding has grown to about 1,200 acres and is forcing evacuations in the area as it threatens well over 100 homes, firefighters reported.
About 9:10 p.m., evacuations were being called for Camino Del Encina and surrounding streets, authorities said.
As of about 9:45 p.m., the fire was still considered 30 percent contained.
But California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Mike Weaver called the Dale Fire "uncontrollable," adding that it was spreading at a moderate to rapid rate throughout the evening.
Mike Witesman, a public information officer for Calfire, said five homes have been damaged, but he didn't know where they were or how badly they were damaged. There still are about 150 homes considered threatened between Cloverdale and Honeybee roads at this point, as well as around 50 other structures.
"It just has a south wind on it pushing it through the area," said Mike Birondo of Cal Fire.
Witesman confirmed that the fire was 1,200 acres as of around 9:45 p.m., but he said firefighters are getting a handle on it.
"I'm very optimistic the fire’s not going to get much larger, if at all," he said.
He said crews aren't expecting full containment until Saturday.
Weaver said most of the fire activity is north of Clear Creek. He said it's spreading north but it's a "narrow" fire.
John Bruno, a public information officer for Cal Fire, said the fire was between a half mile and a mile from Placer Street.
"If the wind surfaces again, it could take off," he said.
Meanwhile, a second fire broke out off Placer Road near La Paloma Way.
Mandatory evacuations are in effect on the south side of Placer Road between the Veterans Memorial Bridge near Igo and Sans Souci Drive, while voluntary evacuations are in effect on the north side of Placer. Residents are also being evacuated from Calle Vista Way, Secluded Valley, Ridgeland Terraces and Vista Knolls drives.
Witesman said some adjacent residences may also be evacuated soon, but residents of Cloverdale and Clear Creek roads may be allowed back into their homes soon.
He said there haven't been any injuries reported from the fire.
Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees said it is too early to estimate the amount of damage the fire is causing.
Sheriff Tom Bosenko ordered the opening of a temporary shelter at Shasta High School. It was early evening, and a family of five and their two nurses — the only people to arrive at the school — were preparing to return to their home on Oak Street.
“You think it won’t happen to you but then as you get closer to home and you see that smoke,” said Bobbi Hunter, who was driving home to be with her three young daughters, who all have disabilities, when she noticed the columns of white smoke. “I thought, why take a chance? Let’s just get out of here.”
Bosenko said it was unlikely the high school, which can hold several hundred, would have any evacuees stay overnight.
“We are very fortunate that right now it looks like they got a very good handle on the fire and it’s starting to lay down, which means that it’s starting to calm down,” Bosenko said about 7 p.m. “It’s a little cooler and the wind has died down a bit.”
The Salvation Army provided snacks.
Dispatchers are using an automated telephone notification system to notify residents on Cloverview and Sunshine Ridge roads of the mandatory evacuation. Residents on Whispering Canyon Drive are being notified of possible evacuations.
Homes off Placer Road near Texas Spring Road are also receiving automated evacuation notices, as are homes on Diggins Way and Sans Souci Drive.
Firefighters were prioritizing their attack to the section north of Clear Creek, Birondo said. About 50 to 75 acres are burning north of Clear Creek toward Diggins Way.
Power lines are down on Cloverdale Road, firefighters reported, though they're not live. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. workers said some 400 homes lost power and about 150 have been restored.
PG&E crews have to check the power lines but will then restore power to all homes in the area.
Birondo said hard road closures are in place at Cloverdale Road and Oak Street, Clear Creek and Honeybee roads and Clear Creek and Cloverdale.
Closures are also in effect at Honeybee and Texas Spring roads, Montgomery Ranch and Texas Spring roads and Placer Road and Diggins Way.
"I would just advise people to stay out of the area," said Linda Galvan, Cal Fire spokeswoman.
Dispatchers reported the Dale Fire at about 1:50 p.m. at about 10 to 15 acres, but it quickly grew to more than 100 acres and then more than 1,000 acres.
John Bruno, a public information officer for Cal Fire, said it was hard for crews to tell how big the fire was at first because of all the smoke.
Nine crews, three helicopters, 44 fire engines , seven dozers, seven water tenders, for a total of 394 personnel battled the blaze, Witesman said. Fire crews from Butte and Siskiyou counties assisted.
Chris Merjil, 22, whose parents live on Cloverdale Road, said he saw a neon blue explosion and a power line fall, sparking the fire. He ran to neighbors' house to tell about the blaze.
Michelle Steffen, 21, said she's worried about homes in the area and the amount of smoke the fire is producing.
“It’ll go white, then black, then brown, then back to white," she said.
Birondo said light-colored smoke indicates that vegetation is burning.
“A rule of thumb, with light-colored smoke its vegetation, but dark-colored smoke its improvements, structures and vehicles,” Birondo said.
Michelle Pfenning, 47, was stuck in traffic on Cloverdale Road earlier this afternoon. She said her boyfriend owns a home on the road across from where the fire started.
She wasn’t initially able to communicate with him and was scared and frustrated without news.
“(I’m) staring at my phone and waiting for texts and listening to the scanner,” Pfenning said.
The two got in touch after about 15 minutes and he and her daughter were both okay, she said.
Check back here for updates.