More than 1,000 homes were destroyed by two massive Northern California wildfires as authorities assessed the damage in the Sierra Nevada foothills on Saturday.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said the count of 511 homes destroyed by the blaze burning for more than a week in Amador and Calaveras counties comes as firefighters make progress and damage-inspection teams have access to scorched areas. Cal Fire had reported 252 homes destroyed as of Friday night by the fire that has burnt 110 square miles.
“Some of the homes are tucked back in rural areas, so it’s taken time to reach them,” Berlant said.
The fire was 67 percent contained but still threatened 6,400 more structures. At least two people have died in the fire.
A separate blaze in Lake County, about 170 miles northwest, has destroyed 888 structures, at least 585 of them homes. It has killed three people.
The Lake County inferno tore through 62 square miles in 12 hours, causing thousands of residents to flee after it ignited a week ago. About 19,000 people were ordered to evacuate. The blazed had scorched 116 square miles and was 50 percent contained Saturday.
Residents of Middletown, one of the hardest hit areas, were allowed to return to their homes Saturday afternoon. Evacuation orders for other areas in Lake County remained active.
Heat was descending again on the two deadly and destructive Northern California wildfires after a few days of favorable conditions, raising fears that major gains could be undone.
“We’re looking at predicted weather of 100 degrees for the next couple of days, and at least mid-90s throughout the weekend,” Scott Mclean, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Friday.
That makes it essential that the smoldering remains of the two giant blazes be dealt with as quickly and thoroughly as possible, Mclean said.
“You’ve got some high temps, high winds that could stir up those ash piles and those ember piles,” he said. “We have to do that mop-up to be sure this fire goes to bed.”
Several survivors of the Lake County fire have said they never got an official evacuation notice when the danger was at its peak about a week ago.
Authorities defended their warnings and rescue attempts, saying they did all they could to reach people in the remote area of homes, many prized for their privacy.
“You may get that notice, or you may not, depending on how fast that fire is moving,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynnette Round said. “If you can see the fire, you need to be going.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.