Wildfire destroys more than 100 homes in California town

Still recovering from a wildfire that devastated it nearly a year ago, the town of Lower Lake has lost more than 100 of its homes to the latest blaze raging through Northern California.

Josh Edelson/AP
A firefighter rescues goats as flames from a wildfire envelope the area in Lower Lake, Calif., on Sunday.

Firefighters, working-class families, and retirees continued to battle a wildfire Monday in a northern California town still recovering from a disastrous blaze that tore through it a year ago.

As hospital staff in neighboring Clearlake transferred patients to a hospital farther from the fire, and as firefighters carried goats and other animals to safety, residents of Lower Lake tried to save their homes any way they could.

"This is my grandfather's house, and I’m not going to lose it," Garrett Reed told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If I see embers and ash rain down, I will turn the sprinklers on the roof and get out."

Phaedra Phelps's approach was the same.

"My daddy bought this house for me 18 years ago," Ms. Phelps told The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. "I'm staying here. This is my home. Unless my home is on fire, I'm not going anywhere."

The Clayton Fire, fed by parched vegetation from a five-year drought and triple-digit temperatures, had leveled about 175 structures in Lower Lake by Monday morning, according to The Sacramento Bee. It also forced thousands of residents to evacuate the region about 100 miles north of San Francisco.  

The wind-whipped fire started Saturday afternoon, and remained active into the night. The fire was slowed Sunday morning by air pressure at higher elevations pushed down and trapped cooler temperatures, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. This blanket, or inversion layer, prevents smoke from rising and decelerates flames, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But the fire created its own weather pattern later Sunday, and moved into Lower Lake. It eventually tore through parts of Main Street, burning the post office, a vineyard, and several businesses, including a Habitat for Humanity office that was raising money to go toward rebuilding homes destroyed by the fire a year ago.

"Emotions are still incredibly raw from the Valley Fire," said state Sen. Mike McGuire. "I don't think any of us thought we'd be back where we are tonight."

The Valley Fire, one of a succession of fires to wreak havoc on the region in August and September, is considered the third most destructive wildfire in California's history. The Valley Fire scorched more than 75,000 acres, killing four people, and destroying more than 1,300 homes. The active wildfire has destroyed 3,000 acres, according to The Sacramento Bee.

While a report issues this week concluded faulty wiring in a hot tub started last year's fires, a historic drought and high temperatures has fueled wildfires throughout the state.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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