Jackson, California. – Evacuation orders were extended on Tuesday for isolated communities in California near awhich may have been triggered by fireworks or a July 4 barbecue in a mountainous region that is a top tourist destination.
The Electra Fire in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country erupted Monday afternoon and tripled in size to about 6.1 square miles. It was contained at 5% on Tuesday evening.
The fire was making short bursts, firefighters said.
“The rate of spread is not what it was yesterday, but it continues to spread,” Amador County Sheriff Gary Redman said. He said firefighters were working to keep the flames confined to unpopulated areas of the canyon.
The mandatory evacuation orders and combined warnings affected up to 700 residents in Amador County and 300 to 400 people in Calaveras County, Redman said. The sheriff’s office has shared a map showing evacuation zones online, and evacuation centers have been set up for people and animals in the affected area.
The blaze broke out in a crowded recreation area, forcing 85 to 100 people celebrating the holidays by a river to take shelter in a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. facility, Redman said. All were then safely evacuated.
“It was the closest I’ve ever been to a fire. It was literally a few feet away from us,” said Milka Mikula of Valley Springs, who had been to the river with her husband, daughter of 5 year old and her 1 -year old son.
They had to wait about six hours before they could finally go home, she told KCRA-TV.
“I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to get out of there with my babies. I was shaking really, really hard for a while,” Mikula said.
Redman said the cause of the fire was not known, but it started in the Vox Beach area of the North Fork Mokelumne River. He said that might suggest fireworks or a barbecue as a potential cause.
More than 100 fire engines, 1,200 firefighters and 14 helicopters were dispatched to the blaze, posing a threat to electrical infrastructure, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The terrain was described as steep and rugged.
Cal Fire activated an incident management team for the fire. The teams “are made up of trained personnel who provide operational management and support for large-scale and expanding incidents,” Cal Fire said.
A local fire protection district firefighter suffered burns, Redman said.
Vox Beach is about 55 miles east of Sacramento, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada region, steeped in gold rush history from the mid-1800s.
Several other small fires were burning across the state.