Lake County Residents Evacuated as Winds Fuel Fast-Moving Fire

LAKE COUNTY -- Residents rushed to the edge of the evacuation zone of the Pawnee Fire in Lake County Sunday, everyone hoping for news about their homes.

"When we saw the fire encroaching on us, time to go," said Valeria House of Clearlake Oaks.

FOX40 double checked and her home was still standing.  But whipped by gusty winds and low humidity, the fire scalped an entire ridgeline behind House's Clearlake Oaks neighborhood in just a few hours.

Firefighters went on the defensive as the blaze reached 7,700 acres by Sunday night.

"Based on some of the conditions today, and how things deteriorated, it was really important for us to get in there and protect life and property," said Paul Lowenthal with Cal Fire.

Firefighters also prioritized keeping the burn back from major roads but weren’t consistently successful and they had to fight the fire on both sides of the main thoroughfare, County Road 221, much of the day.

Despite being under a mandatory evacuation, several residents chose to stay put. On Sunday night, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department asked those residents refusing to leave to reduce the water they use to conserve it for firefighting.

Residents aren’t only worried about their homes, they are also worried about Chalk Mountain, an old World War II sulfur mine. When sulfur mixes with fire that creates sulfur dioxide, which is poisonous.

Cal Fire says they are consulting with Bureau of Land Management experts about all the mines in the area. They are accounting for those mines in their strategy, which at this point relies heavily on air support as well.

Be sure to follow our live blog for any updates on the Pawnee Fire.