Nearly 800 firefighters and more than 50 fire engines battled a large late season wildfire that destroyed one structure and was threatening several others in Northern California on Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Dubbed the McCabe fire, the blaze that began Friday morning had burned 2,000 acres in The Geysers in Sonoma County, a rugged area north of San Francisco that produces geothermal energy, by midday Saturday, destroying a power plant cooling tower.
The fire, which was 10 percent contained, was burning in steep and rugged terrain, making it difficult for firefighters to access certain areas, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for Cal Fire. He said dry conditions in the area and strong offshore winds over the last few days have fanned the fire and allowed it to grow quickly despite it being late in the season for fires.
“Absolutely having a fire this large this late in the year is very uncommon, especially in Northern California along the coast,” he said.
Calpine Corp., which owns much of the land where the fire is burning, evacuated employees on Friday. Aside from the geothermal plants, the area is remote and lacking many structures. But Berlant said firefighters were focused on protecting the geothermal power facilities in the area. According to the Cal Fire website, the fire currently threatens 12 structures.
Berlant said weather conditions have made it harder for firefighters to contain the blaze.
“We are seeing strong winds today which could allow this fire to grow even larger and the risk for new fires is heightened as well,” he said.
Additional fire department resources were en route to join the 783 personnel and 54 fire engines already on the scene, including some from Southern California.
On Saturday afternoon the cause of the fire remained unknown and Cal Fire said it was still under investigation. No injuries have been reported.
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Berlant warned that if conditions continued to remain dry the state, which has seen little rainfall this season, California would be at risk for additional fires even later in the winter.
“This year in California we saw very little rainfall early in the season and that’s allowed this year to be a very prolonged fire season and unfortunately until we get a good amount of rainfall we will remain susceptible to wildfires,” he said.