USA TODAY US Edition
Firefighters race to contain wildfires Trevor Hughes
Firefighters made slow progress against two fast-moving wildfires in Northern California early Tuesday, although forecasts for rain midweek signaled temporary relief in what has become a costly, intense wildfire season.
The Valley Fire and Butte Fire, the most severe of more than a dozen wildfires roaring throughout the state, have destroyed more than 750 homes and hundreds of other buildings in less than a week.
The Valley Fire has sprawled across three counties, including the wine-country counties of Napa and Sonoma, scorching 67,000 acres with only 15% containment, said CalFire public information officer Daniel Berlant. While the fire swept unchecked across miles of rolling, drought-parched hillsides, any progress was remarkable: as of Monday morning, the third day of the fire, containment had been zero.
Almost 2,400 firefighters were battling the blaze, part of a 11,000-person web of firefighters charged with containing all the fires. California’s extreme drought, the worst on record, has led to rapid escalation in the size and destruction of the state’s fires — and the re- sources used to fight it.
The Valley Fire led to one death. The body of Barbara McWilliams, an elderly woman suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis, was found late Sunday in her burned out home. Four firefighters have been injured.
In and around the hotsprings-resort town of Middletown it destroyed at least 400 homes as well as a popular resort.
The Valley Fire did most of its damage in eight hours on Saturday, and firefighters are preparing for a monumental battle over the next several days.
Cooler temperatures reduced the fire’s intensity Monday, and firefighters hope to significantly increase containment before temperatures rise again this weekend.
“We’ve got to take advantage right now and get containment built,” Berlant said. “We will not really be able to breathe a sigh of relief until we get that containment line in place.”