California fires threaten nudist resort, hundreds of homes evacuated

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:51am IST

SAN FRANCISCO Aug 13 (Reuters) - Wildfires are threatening a nudist resort in Northern California and have forced the evacuations of more than 480 homes, firefighters said on Monday.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling two fires that started on Sunday afternoon in Lake County, a tourist area about a two hours north of San Francisco, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fires forced the closure of a portion of Highway 20, a major road that runs around Clear Lake, a popular summer destination.

One fire, dubbed the Walker Fire, threatened Wilbur Hot Springs, a popular nudist resort, as well as nearby ranches, Berlant said. The other, called the Wye Fire, forced the evacuation of 480 homes in the Spring Valley area.

"We haven't had rain in months, so the grass and the brush were incredibly dry. We had triple-digit temperatures, which create the perfect burning conditions for a wildlife," Berlant said.

The Wye Fire has burned 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) and is roughly 25 percent contained, he said. Three structures were reported destroyed. The Walker Fire has swept through 2,000 acres and is 30 percent contained.

One firefighter was injured by the Walker fire, and one civilian by the Wye fire. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees.

Investigators are looking into what sparked the blazes. Both started at about 4 p.m. on Sunday within a couple of miles of each other.

"They started in the grass, burned in the brush and right into the timber as it gets higher into the ridge," Berlant said.

Wilbur Hot Springs had already been scheduled to close on Sunday Aug. 12 for 12 days of annual maintenance, according to its website.

In southern Oregon, 201 structures are threatened by a wildfire that has burned 28,791 acres of rugged, forested land and is roughly 25 percent contained, officials said. Twenty homes are subject to evacuation orders, and another 30 have been told to prepare for evacuation.

More than 1,000 fire fighters are battling the blaze in temperatures in the nineties fahrenheit, according to fire spokeswoman Renee Snyder. The so-called Barry Point fire was sparked last week by lightning. No structures have been destroyed.

"Mother Nature is not lending us a hand on this one yet," Snyder said. (Additional reporting by Teresa Carson in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Mary Slosson, Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

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