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News / Nation & World

California firefighters continue battling wind-driven wildfire east of San Francisco

By TRÂN NGUYỄN AND THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press
Published: June 3, 2024, 8:14am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California firefighters made significant progress Sunday to tame a wind-driven wildfire that scorched thousands of acres 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of San Francisco, burned down a home and forced residents to flee the area near the central California city of Tracy.

The fire erupted Saturday afternoon in the grassy hills managed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the country’s key centers for nuclear weapons science and technology. The cause was under investigation.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the research center was not under immediate threat from the blaze, dubbed the Corral Fire, which had devoured some 22 square miles (52 square kilometers) by Sunday afternoon. The fire was 50% contained as of Sunday evening.

Thousands of people in the area, including parts of the city of Tracy with a population of 100,000, were ordered to leave for evacuation centers Saturday. The evacuation order was lifted to allow residents to return home starting Sunday evening. Tracy is about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of California’s capital in Sacramento.

CalFire Battalion Chief Josh Silveira said Sunday afternoon the fire “burned right up to the homes” in the area and destroyed one house. With calmer winds and milder weather Sunday, Silveira said he didn’t expect the fire to grow.

Two firefighters suffered minor to moderate burns on Saturday and were expected to make a full recovery, Silveira said.

The wildfire presented no threat to any laboratory facilities or operations and had moved away from the site, Lawrence Livermore spokesperson Paul Rhien said in a statement to The Associated Press early Sunday.

“As a precaution, we have activated our emergency operations center to monitor the situation through the weekend,” Rhien said.

Photos showed a wall of flames moving over the parched landscape as dark smoke billowed into the sky.

The wildfire also forced the closure of two major highways, including an interstate that connects the San Francisco Bay Area to San Joaquin County in central California. But they had reopened by Sunday afternoon.

The San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services on Saturday issued an evacuation order for areas west of the California Aqueduct, south of Corral Hollow Creek, west to Alameda County and south to Stanislaus County. A temporary evacuation point was established at Larch Clover Community Center in Tracy. The county also asked residents to temporarily use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.

Sunday’s high temperature for Tracy was expected to reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), with no rain in the forecast. But hotter conditions are on their way.

The National Weather Service said “dangerously hot conditions” with highs of 103 F to 108 F (39.4 C to 42.2 C) were expected later in the week for the San Joaquin Valley, an area that encompasses Tracy. Wind gusts of up to 45 mph (72 kph) lashed the region Saturday night, according to meteorologist Idamis Shoemaker of the weather service in Sacramento.

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