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Fawn Fire Grows To 8,537 Acres, 35% Containment

REDDING (AP/CBS13) — Firefighters are gaining the upper hand on a forest fire that displaced thousands of people near Shasta Lake in Northern California. Lighter winds and cooler weather is slowing the Fawn Fire as it moves toward the shores of the lake and away from populated areas north of the city of Redding.

The fire at point threatened 9,000 buildings but the number dropped to about 2,000 on Sunday. It is currently 8,537 acres and containment is up to 35 percent.

The fire, believed to be started by a woman charged with arson, has destroyed at least 130 homes.

Previous day's updates below:

11 a.m.

The fire grew overnight to 7,544 acres and remained at 10 percent containment.

Damage assessment teams went out Saturday to determine how many buildings have burned.

Officials say initial assessments found that at least 100 homes and other structures had been lost, but that number was likely to change as teams go street by street.

Meanwhile, as of 10 a.m., evacuation orders for all roads north of Oregon Trail at Akrich north to Pine Grove and east of Interstate 5, and Tierra Oaks and the surrounding areas have been downgraded to evacuation warnings.

And, the following evacuation warnings have been lifted, allowing residents to return home:

  • All roads on the west side of I-5, west to the railroad tracks and on the north side of Shasta Dam Boulevard north of Old Oregon trail.
  • All roads west of I-5 to Ashby between Pine Grove and Shasta Dam.
  • All roads west of I-5 to the railroad tracks, south of Bass Drive to OId Oregon Trail
  • All areas north of Highway 299, east of I-5, to Old Oregon Trail, to Pine Grove Avenue.

Previous day's updates below:

10 p.m.

The Fawn Fire growth continued through Friday night, with the burned acreage now reported at 6,820 acres while containment remained at 10 percent.

At least 100 structures have been destroyed

1:09 p.m.

An additional 1,500 people have been evacuated in Shasta County, bringing the total number of evacuees to 4,000. More than 9,000 structures are threatened by the fire.

So far, 25 structures have been destroyed.

Wind-driven flames ravaged Little Acres lane.

7:04 a.m.

Daylight has given firefighting crews a new look at the Fawn Fire, which has grown by over 300 acres overnight and now sits at 5,850 acres. Containment has grown from 5% to 10%.

Cal Fire has arrested a woman who is believed to have started the fire in the area of Fawndale and Radcliff roads.

Authorities say they have arrested more than 100 people on arson charges this year.

Previous day's updates below:

10:14 p.m.

More homes have been destroyed in the Fawn Fire, which erupted in size Thursday in Shasta County, As of the nighttime, the fire had scorched 5,500 acres and was still just 5% contained. Officials said at least 25 structures have been lost.

The fire grew around 4,000 acres just in the last 24 hours.

2:36 p.m.

Evacuations were ordered Thursday in a far Northern California community as a new wildfire spread, authorities said.

The Shasta County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation order because of the Fawn Fire burning in the unincorporated Mountain Gate area north of the city of Redding at the far north end of the Central Valley.

Residents were told to temporarily gather in a parking lot at Shasta College in Redding. The number of residents affected was not immediately known. People living in other areas were warned to be prepared to leave if more evacuations are ordered.

The fire has grown to more than 1 square mile (3.2 square kilometers) since it started Wednesday afternoon and was just 5% contained.

A woman suspected of lighting a fire near where the Fawn Fire started was arrested by Cal Fire, the agency announced on Thursday. Employees working near the JF Shea and Mountain Gate Quarries reported seeing a woman trespassing at the property and acting irrationally. 

Later in the day, authorities believe that same woman - 30-year-old Palo Alto resident Alexandra Souverneva - emerged from the brush near the fire line and approached fire crews for help. 

Souverneva is now alleged to have caused the fire, although it is unclear how. She has been arrested and is facing arson to wildland charges. 

Statewide, more than 9,000 firefighters remained assigned to 10 large, active wildfires, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

California fires have burned 3,671 square miles (9,507 square kilometers) this year, destroying more than 3,200 homes, commercial properties and other structures.

Those fires include two big forest blazes growing in the heart of California's giant sequoia country on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

On Wednesday, officials showed reporters how Sequoia National Park's famous Giant Forest has been protected from the KNP Complex fire by years of using carefully set and controlled fires to burn away vegetation that can serve as wildfire fuel.

The bases of some of the most famous giant sequoias were also wrapped in fire-resistant materials. Giant Forest has 2,000 sequoias and includes the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world by volume.

The fear of catastrophic fire coming through that section of the national park has been greatly reduced because of the combination of the prescribed burns and the low intensity of the fire that moved into part of the forest, said Ed Christopher, deputy fire director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"And because of that we feel that the majority of the trees in this Giant Forest area should come out of this event like they have for the past thousands of years," he said.

Historic drought tied to climate change is making wildfires harder to fight. It has killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

The KNP Complex began as two fires ignited by lighting on Sept. 9. The fires later merged into one and have scorched more than 51 square miles (132 square kilometers). Sequoia and adjacent Kings Canyon National Park have been closed. Several communities are under evacuation orders or warnings for people to be prepared to leave.

Nearby, the Windy Fire has burned through nearly 57 square miles (148 square kilometers) on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Sequoia National Forest, including Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Also ignited by lightning on Sept. 9, the Windy Fire has forced the evacuation of small forest communities, but no privately owned structures had burned as of Thursday morning. A fire lookout structure and a radio repeater site on a peak were destroyed by the blaze.

The fire has moved through several groves of giant sequoias and damaged one of the big trees on the famed Trail of 100 Giants. An expert from Yosemite National Park was expected to examine the groves on Thursday.

Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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