Firefighters battling the massive King fire showed signs of progress Sunday night, while smoke forced the cancellation of a popular Lake Tahoe sporting event and worsened air quality over a large swath of foothills.

As fire officials began to confirm the first loss of homes and structures Friday in the King fire, the man accused of setting the massive blaze appeared in court for the first time and entered a not-guilty plea.

Because of the uncertain path of the King fire, the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has closed the McKinney Rubicon Trail and is advising against travel into the Desolation and Granite Chief wildernesses.

The King Fire has damaged a number of power generation systems connected to Sierra reservoirs, but utility officials still don't know how bad it is. Treasured public recreation areas at Stumpy Meadows Reservoir and the Rubicon River canyon also may have been affected.

Weary firefighters and relieved El Dorado County residents expressed elation Thursday at word that an arson suspect had been arrested and charged with starting the massive King fire, which has charred roughly 76,000 acres of forest in El Dorado and Placer counties since Saturday and threatens 12,000 homes.

A ravenous wildfire in El Dorado County devoured swaths of forested terrain for a fifth day Wednesday, leaving nearly 2,200 residents displaced as fire crews battled to protect homes, lives and a major thoroughfare.

“We are faced with a large and dangerous fire and the fire has grown significantly,” said Laurence Crabtree, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest.

A man sought by police in connection with a fatal July bank robbery in Stockton met with investigators Tuesday and was then released.

Late Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol reported the closure of Highway 50 in both directions between Sly Park Road and Riverton due to the fire, and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuations for neighborhoods in the eastern portion of Pollock Pines.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a controversial plan to ship millions of gallons of volatile crude oil daily on trains through California to a refinery in Bakersfield. Opponents immediately said they will consider suing to stop the project.

A dozen activists chained themselves to a gate Thursday in Richmond to protest crude-oil shipments on rail into the Kinder Morgan rail terminal. There were no reports of arrests, but demonstrators said they were able to shut the facility down for three hours. The Richmond oil transfer station receives shipments of volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota several times a month on 100-car trains that travel through midtown Sacramento.

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