Firefighters slow spread of California wildfire

RENO, Nev. — Fire crews battling a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes near the Northern California town of Oroville were able to slow its growth overnight.

CBS Sacramento cites Cal Fire officials who say at least 10 homes have been destroyed in the Ponderosa Fire. Another five homes have been damaged, according to Cal Fire numbers

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Thursday that the blaze about 70 miles north of Sacramento had consumed nearly 5 square miles and was partially contained. It’s still threatening 500 homes.

It says fire crews from across California are joining more than 1,000 firefighters battling the fire that started Tuesday.

Cal Fire posted latest figures on the wildfire on its Facebook page early Thursday:

#PonderosaFire 8/31/17 6:30AM Incident Update

Posted by Butte County Sheriff on Thursday, August 31, 2017

CBS Sacramento reports that two evacuation centers are open: one at the Ponderosa Community Center in Brownsville and another at the Church of the Nazarene in Oroville.

Firefighters from around the state are continuing to show up to help try and slow the flames, CBS Sacramento reports.

CBS Sacramento says John Ballenger, 29, was arrested Tuesday night in connection to the Ponderosa Fire. Investigators suspect he started a fire outside of a designated campground and allowed the fire to escape.

Melanie Grove works at Feather Falls Gold Flake Saloon. She says she’s seen Ballenger at the bar many times.

“He wasn’t acting what we say is normal,” Grove said.

Grove says she and her neighbors have seen small fires in the area and trees and nails thrown into the middle of the road. And in all of those instances, Ballenger was always nearby.

“I just wish somebody could’ve helped him before this all happened,” she said.

The Ponderosa Fire is one of many wildfires burning across the U.S. West, including blazes in and around California’s Yosemite National Park that have closed a popular road into the park, shuttered the iconic Wawona Hotel and evacuated nearby towns.

About 58 homes near the park were destroyed earlier this summer.

Wildfire near Burning Man

Firefighters battling a wildfire near the Burning Man festival say they’re trying to keep the main highway open to the counterculture celebration in the Nevada desert.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Gordon says State Route 447 connecting Interstate 80 to the festival was closed for several hours overnight but reopened Thursday morning.

Gordon says traffic is moving in both directions but it’s “very slow going.”

Interagency fire spokesman John Gaffney says the biggest priority is protecting about a half dozen ranches threatened by the fire that has burned about 45 square miles.

The blaze is about 40 miles south of Burning Man.

He says aircraft are attacking the flames that are chewing through sagebrush and cheatgrass in temperatures expected to reach triple digits.

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Source: CBS News – United States

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