Man ar­rested in Cal­i­for­nia blaze that’s de­stroyed 10 homes

The Day - - WORLD & NATION -

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.

FEDOR ZARKHIN/THE OREGONIAN VIA AP

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.

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