Saturday, 13 April 2024

Walker Fire burns thousands of acres; area residents evacuated

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The Walker Fire cast an eerie glow at the Double Eagle Ranch Sunday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


DOUBLE EAGLE RANCH – Firefighters from around Lake County and from Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit were engaged in a battle against a lightning-caused fire in the Walker Ridge area that was estimated to have burned more than 4,000 acres late Sunday.


With firefighting equipment and personnel stretched thin due to the hundreds of other lightning fires around California, Cal Fire estimated Sunday night that the Walker Fire could balloon to 10,000 acres because of limited resources.


While the fire was reported to be moving toward Bear Ridge, the big concern was that winds from the Sacramento Valley might push the fire in the other direction, toward the Spring Valley area, which could trigger evacuations.


Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said the fire was reported Sunday afternoon when smoke was spotted in the remote wildland area over the ridge from the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision, located about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks.


But the thick, smoky haze hanging over the county from fires in Mendocino County made it difficult to pin down the fire's location, said Brown, with firefighters spending half an hour looking for it.


By the time they found it, the fast-moving fire already had reached about 500 acres, Brown said.


The fire was burning through thick brush, and could be seen lining the ridges behind the subdivision, where in one area a column of flame suddenly expanded and leaped into the night air.


Brown said that personnel and 10 pieces of in-county fire equipment from all county fire protection districts – Lake County, South County, Lakeport, Kelseyville and Northshore – were on the Walker Ridge fire Sunday. Colusa County sent a strike team from its Sacramento River Fire District.


Cal Fire reported that total resources in place included 13 engines, 11 crews, one helicopter, six air tankers plus a DC-10, one bulldozer, three water tenders and 54 personnel.


The planes and helicopter were called back close to dark, said Brown. They were expected to return Monday.


“I can't get any more equipment,” said Brown, adding there weren't enough firefighting resources available because of the statewide fire picture.


Brown said that, along with the water tenders, three subdivision residents had large water tanks containing several thousand gallons of water, and another had a swimming pool, which could be used as water sources of necessary.


The big concern is wind, said Brown.


Although the wind had died down Sunday evening, Brown said much depends on conditions overnight and into Monday morning. If valley winds come in, they could push the fire toward Spring Valley.


Cal Fire reported wind gust of up to 14 miles per hour in the area Sunday.


Concerns that the fire could reach the Double Eagle Ranch led officials to evacuate all of the homeowners currently in residence Sunday evening.


Three Lake County Sheriff's deputies and a sergeant were on scene to evacuate between 25 and 30 residents, said Sgt. Kip Ringen.


One older man, who was leaving the Double Eagle on foot with his dog late Sunday, said he was ordered to leave and firefighters were stationed near his home.


“I hope I can go back soon,” he said.


The Clearlake Oaks Fire Station was opened as a Red Cross emergency shelter to area residents, officials reported.


With residents out of the subdivision, fire equipment was stationed around some area homes in case the fire comes over the ridge. Cal Fire reported 10 residences in the area were threatened.


Ringen said he also found several goats at a home in the Double Eagle Ranch while looking for residents to evacuate. The goats' owner wasn't home, so Ringen called for Animal Care and Control, who removed the animals.


Officials reported as many as 10 female goats and an uncooperative billy goat were taken to safety.


Animal Care and Control staffer Sara Schramm and Officer Eric Wood were at the Clearlake Oaks Fire Station with a pickup truck and trailer in case they were needed to help evacuate other livestock.


Schramm said four horses had been brought out by their owners, with another officer helping find boarding situations for the animals.


Late Sunday, California Highway Patrol officers were stationed at the entrance to Double Eagle along with sheriff's deputies in order to control traffic if necessary.


Although the fire was several ridges away from Highway 20, officials were prepared for the possibility that they might have to shut down the highway.


“That's probably one of our biggest concerns,” said Brown.


The roadway was still open late Sunday, although Brown again cautioned that conditions overnight and on Monday could change that.


CHP reported that Caltrans sign trucks were being requested as a precaution to set up at Highways 20 and 16, and at the intersection of Highway 53 and 20 in case a road closure became necessary.


Farther east on Highway 20, officials reported that the fire was expected to reach the highway near the Oasis – an old road house – around midnight.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Plumes of smoke from the fire could be seen from the entrance to Spring Valley, where officials are concerned the fire might go if winds shift. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 


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