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Western Wildfires

Hot Shot crews from Mendocino use backfires to help contain the County Fire along Highway 128 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County on Tuesday.

The County Fire, which erupted Saturday afternoon in Yolo County, has nearly tripled in size over the past several days, so far scorching 88,000 acres in Yolo and Napa counties, or about 134 square miles, fire officials said. The blaze was 33 percent contained by Thursday evening, but still threatened nearly 110 structures, down from 990 the previous day.

Cal Fire announced Thursday morning that evacuation advisories had been lifted for areas that included Berryessa Highlands, Pleasure Cove Resort, Markely Cove Resort and residences accessed by Steele Canyon Road. Highway 128 was also fully reopened.

Most at risk was Guinda, a small town along Highway 16 north of Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, where the blaze broke out. No structures have been destroyed.

Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place Wednesday for residences between Monticello Dam and Pleasants Valley Road that are served by Highway 128, along with those west of Highway 16 to Berryessa Knoxville Road, south of Old County Road 40 and north of County Road 53, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“We have been very successful with a lot of our firefights on the west part of the fire in Napa County right by the lake (Berryessa), and we’ve done some really good work on the southern part, but we are continuing to try to get a handle on the northern part,” said Cal Fire spokesman Israel Pinzon.

The biggest challenge to controlling the northern part of the fire has been difficult terrain, Pinzon said. That, combined with a dry winter and vegetation still recovering from the effects of a five-year drought, has contributed to what is becoming a volatile wildfire season.

Firefighters worked through the night and early morning hours Wednesday to build a line around the fire. The County Fire, the largest of several wildfires burning in Northern California, had rapidly grown because of powerful northeast winds that pushed it across the Napa County line Sunday.

Favorable wind conditions, lower temperatures and higher humidity Wednesday helped firefighters take large steps in containing the fire, said Daniel Sanchez, a Cal Fire spokesman.

“The fight’s going good,” Sanchez said. “The guys are working hard day and night.”

The Pawnee Fire in Lake County, meanwhile, burned 15,000 acres and was 92 percent contained by Thursday morning, according to Cal Fire. No structures remain threatened, and 22 have burned, including 12 homes. All evacuation orders have been lifted.

Both the Pawnee Fire and the County Fire are expected to be fully contained by Tuesday, officials said.

More than 4,600 firefighters continued to fight the blazes, including 3,500 at the County Fire.

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