Man arrested in California blaze that’s destroyed 10 homes
Oroville, Calif. (AP) — Authorities on Wednesday arrested a man suspected of starting an illegal campfire believed to have ignited a growing Northern California blaze that destroyed 10 homes, damaged five others and threatened hundreds more.
The wildfire that ignited Tuesday near the town of Oroville is among a series of wildfires burning across the U.S. West, including in and around California’s Yosemite National Park that closed a popular road into the park, shuttered the iconic Wawona Hotel and evacuated nearby towns.
Parts of the region were struggling with triple-digit temperatures, which made the fight difficult against the blaze near the community threatened earlier this year by damaged sections of the nation’s tallest dam.
The fire 70 miles north of Sacramento was not at all contained and was growing in hot, dry weather, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Cal Fire investigators arrested John Ballenger, 29, of Oroville, on suspicion of starting an illegal campfire. He was taken to jail, and records don’t show whether he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
The wildfire is about 20 miles east of Oroville Dam. Tens of thousands of residents downstream fled when the dam’s spillways crumbled earlier this year and led to fears of catastrophic flooding.
Months later, a wildfire about 15 miles south of the dam destroyed 41 homes in July.
In the new fire, residents along a 15-mile stretch of road in the rural area were ordered evacuated.
Meanwhile, some two dozen fires are burning in Oregon, leading to more than 4,500 evacuations. The area burning in the state is roughly equivalent to half the state of Rhode Island, and the largest fire is only partially contained after lightning ignited it in mid-July.
Smoke from all the blazes has converged on Portland, several hundred miles away, and has obscured the iconic view of Mount Hood and triggered air quality warnings.
In Montana, authorities have ordered about 1,200 homes to evacuate near Seeley Lake, a popular destination for boaters, anglers and hikers about 100 miles northwest of Helena.
In Glacier National Park, smoke from wildfires has led officials to close the historic Lake McDonald Lodge for the season. Earlier this month, the backcountry Sperry Chalet shut down because of the same fire.
In this photo from Sunday, smoke from a wildfire west of Sisters, Ore., blankets the Deschutes National Forest. Firefighters in southern Oregon on Tuesday gained a toehold on a fire burning near the coastal town of Brookings, but new evacuations were ordered after a flare-up on a different complex of lightning-caused fires in a remote area near the California border.