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Fast-Spreading Clayton Fire Chars 3,000 Acres

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The Clayton Fire continues to burn in lake County in the Clear Lake/Lower Lake areas. After a relatively mild night according to fire officials, it picked up momentum Sunday afternoon, spreading through downtown Lower Lake, burning homes and businesses in its path.

The latest information as of Sunday evening total the Clayton Fire at 3,000 acres -- crew have just 5 percent of it contained.

Just when fire crews felt confident the Clayton Fire was losing its momentum, powerful flames picked right back up-thick plumes of white, gray, and black smoke blocked out much of the sky. As winds sent the fire closer to Lower Lake's downtown, a scramble ensued to to grab whatever items or pets residents could get their hands on, and head in the opposite direction.

"Might have to evacuate and get out of here," said Brandon Goodson, whose family lives on Morgan Valley Road.

They, like many in the Clear Lake area, were able to stay in their homes through the devastating Rocky and Valley fires. This time though, the looks of concern on their faces say it all -- they're ready to go.

"Our next door neighbor is the fire chief, so pretty much if he evacuates we're going to evacuate. Pretty much said pack up your stuff and be alert to leave," said Goodson.

"With the condition of the fuels and the wind that picked up, it kind of got out of the line and started heading down this way," said Cal Fire Batallion Chief Joe Buchmeier.

He said crews will continue to anchor the area near Morgan Valley Road, east of Highway 29 where fresh flames began to re-surge Sunday afternoon, ever closer to homes.

"The structure and the life safety became a priority so they started dealing with that," Buchmeier said.

Sleepers, as fire officials call them, small flames or embers that can pick up in a split second are also a concern for crews. The Clayton Fire's already blackened much of the earth in the Clear Lake area, crews hope they can contain it before it does more significant damage.

Fire officials say evacuations were ordered in the Copley Creek subdivision, north of Morgan Valley Road, Sunday afternoon.

Evacuations have also been ordered in the so-called Chapman tract area, east of Highway 53 in the "avenues." Highway 53 has been closed to all incoming traffic, only vehicles leaving the area will be allowed through.

For the latest evacuation information, click here.

Firefighters and volunteers are carrying two goats at a time and taking them out of the area where tractors and utility poles are burning and bumpers are melting off cars as heavy smoke darkens the sky.

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says more than 1,000 firefighters are battling the fire.

The blaze, which started Saturday afternoon, is burning in the same area that was hit last year by three wildfires that destroyed more than 1,300 homes and killed four people.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.