Fires

King Fire has now claimed more than 27,900 acres of timberland

By Bill Lindelof and Peter Hecht - blindelof@sacbee.com

September 17, 2014 06:17 AM

The King Fire in El Dorado County has grown to 27,930 acres, fire officials said Wednesday evening, and the five-day-old blaze shows no sign of slowing.

“We are faced with a large and dangerous fire and the fire has grown significantly,” said Laurence Crabtree, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest. “We have had significant losses of public timber land, private timberland and watershed.”

The fire is growing in different directions, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Robert Little said early Wednesday. The fire, burning since Saturday northeast of Pollock Pines, has grown about 15,000 acres since Tuesday.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in El Dorado and Siskiyou counties because of the effects of the King and Boles fires. The latter fire, which destroyed 150 structures in Weed, had burned 375 acres and was 60 percent contained as of Wednesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

An army of firefighters on Wednesday was attacking the fire from the air and on the ground with more than 2,000 residences threatened, according to Cal Fire. A total of 3,367 firefighters are battling the blaze.

“The Pollock Pines community has the highest priority because of the amount of structures,” Little said. “The other communities threatened, Swansboro and Mosquito, are to the west of the fire.”

Still, the California Highway Patrol has reopened Highway 50 in both directions Wednesday afternoon after closing the freeway earlier in the day as crews battled the fire.

However, the highway’s westbound slow lane remains closed for fire fighting equipment, the CHP’s Placerville office said, and cautioned motorists to watch for emergency personnel in the roadway.

“The biggest priority is to keep it from advancing south into Pollock Pines and from going west into Swansboro,” Little said.

The CHP had closed Highway 50 for a 4-mile stretch in both directions between Sly Park Road and Fresh Pond, which is basically between Pollock Pines and west of Kyburz.

“The fire got very close to Highway 50 and we needed to leave the roadway closed so fire crews could travel back and forth,” CHP Officer Rich Wetzel said earlier Wednesday.

Crews will work to hold the firelines and make new fire breaks to stop the blaze.

“And tomorrow, if we get thunderstorm activity, we could get erratic winds underneath each thunderstorm cell,” Little said. “At nighttime we are dealing with down-canyon winds. This is a fire in two large canyons. At night the fire wants to travel west down the south fork of the American River.”

It had been reported that classes would commence Wednesday, but the Pollock Pines Elementary School District has been advised to keep its schools closed due to the unpredictable nature of the wildland blaze. The situation will be re-evaluated later Wednesday.

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