The California wildfires, with smoke drifting out to the Pacific Ocean, are seen in this NASA satellite image released July 9, 2008 (nasa)
Fire threat to California town falls as winds dip
Sat Jul 12, 2008 8:03pm EDT
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Fire officials lifted a precautionary evacuation order on Saturday for the northern California town of Paradise and said a fire that killed one person and burned 49,500 acres was 55 percent contained.
Authorities had downgraded a mandatory evacuation order on Friday to "precautionary" for the town of 26,000 people in the northwest foothills of California's Central Valley, but they had kept in place evacuation orders east of Paradise.
"There is no evacuation in effect any longer in Paradise," California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection spokesman Tobie Edmonds said.
Residents on the eastern side of Paradise and to the south, in the area of Yankee Hill down to Lake Oroville were told they could return home on Saturday, Edmonds said. More than 10,000 area residents had been ordered out since Tuesday.
The blaze, sparked by lightning strikes, began on June 21 and was fed by hot, dry summer conditions. Immediate evacuation orders remain for an area east of Paradise, including the small communities of Concow and Jarbo Gap.
Firefighters have benefited from more favorable conditions as winds that had been whipping up the Canyon Complex Fire quieted this weekend, Edmonds said.
The burned body of an unidentified resident of Concow was found on Friday in what remained of one of the 50 residences destroyed by the fire. Up to 300 residences were still threatened, Edmonds said.
Summer lightning storms in northern and central California have sparked a wave of brush and forest fires numbering 1,781 at their peak and burning more than 800,000 acres (323,800 hectares). Statewide, 322 fires remain active, according to state figures.
About 20,000 firefighters are battling blazes across the state. On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered 2,000 National Guard troops to join the fight. Firefighters from Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand are taking part.
The fires, which mostly have burned in less-populated areas of California, have left a smoky haze hovering over large parts of the state for the past three weeks.
In the north of the state, a complex of 158 fires in the Shasta-Trinity area that has burned 74,641 acres (30,210 hectares) was 50 percent contained but still threatened 1,200 residences.
In Southern California, the Piute fire on federal land east of Bakersfield and near the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was 44 percent contained and had burned 35,076 acres . The Gap fire, north of Santa Barbara, was 85 percent contained.