CLEARLAKE, Lake County (CBS SF) – Firefighters said they have increased containment on the Cache Fire in Lake County on Thursday, nearly a day after the fire broke out and destroyed dozens of homes. Meanwhile, some areas remain under evacuation.
As of about noon, the Lake County Fire Protection District said the fire had burned 83 acres and was 30% contained.
"Most of our crews will remain on the fire- with the rest of our personnel working to maintain day to day emergency operations. Our thoughts are with those of you in our community who were unfathomably affected by this fire," the fire district said in a Facebook post.
Inside the burn area, crews are clearing trees, restoring power lines, trying to take stock of what's left.
"Currently damage assessment is actively being done," Jacqueline Snyder with the Lake County Fire Protection District told KPIX 5 Thursday afternoon. "The district is comfortable in saying that we have dozens, 24 to 30 homes that are lost. We do expect that number to rise."
At a news conference Thursday night, officials said 56 structures were destroyed along with 81 outbuildings. At least 158 vehicles were also destroyed in the blaze.
"Those are some stark numbers for what was a relatively short fire in a small area. That was quite damaging," Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said at the briefing.
One person, only identified by officials as an older woman, was hospitalized after suffering burns. She was airlifted to a facility outside the county, officials said.
The amount of fire Lake County has endured in recent years is remarkable. Middletown was the scene of the 2015 Valley Fire that killed five people. Lower Lake, that was the scene of the Clayton Fire. There were also the Jerusalem, Rocky and Pawnee fires, before the River & Ranch Fires that made up the Mendocino Complex, at the time the largest fire in state history.
By one estimate, 60 percent of the county has burned since 2012.
"I'm a resident of Lake County," Snyder said. "I think we are exhausted. Fire season, every time we hear a siren, it gets our goat up and we get worried."
KPIX 5 reporter Andrea Nakano reported that many of the destroyed homes were located in the Creekside Mobile Home Park and the Cache Creek Mobile Home Estates.
The Cache Fire broke out around 1 p.m. Wednesday in Clearlake near 6th Avenue and Cache Street. More than 1,500 people were evacuated.
Among the evacuees was David Steffen, who said he lost his home in the Cache Creek Mobile Home Estates. "I just moved in there. I was homeless before I moved in there," he said.
Steffen told KPIX 5 that he had moved to the mobile home park about a year ago. "I just come up to see if it was true," he said.
Before evacuating, Steffen said he was only able to get his dog, his wife's medication and blankets to sleep on.
"Well, we got out," Becky Caires, who lost her home to the fire, told KPIX 5 on Thursday. "I had about 11 minutes to get out."
When people living in the Creekside Mobile Home Park saw the smoke, many of them went racing for garden hoses hoping to fight back the flames. It was already too late.
"By then it had gotten into the trees and the front yard had caught on fire," said Payton May. "The back yard was starting to burn and it was really nothing anyone could do."
On Thursday, those forced out by the flames spent the day waiting outside of the evacuation zone, recounting their escape to safety.
"I really wasn't going to leave because there's all these fires," said Rebecca Vazquez. "But we started hearing explosions, one after another, and that's when I got the kids out of there. And I haven't been able to go back in since."
Firefighters said evacuees from the mobile home parks are being urged to notify the sheriff's office and OES they are safe by calling 707-994-8201 ext. 107.
Some evacuation orders remain in effect Thursday afternoon. According to deputies, as of 3 p.m., a new order was issued for zone LOW-E160-B. Evacuations remain in effect for zone CLE-E157-A.
Road closures in effect Thursday afternoon include:
• Lake St @ Bryant
• Lake St @ Dam Rd
• Dam Rd @ Lake St
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Wilson Walker and Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.
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