California’s largest wildfire of 2019: Crews make progress, some evacuation orders lifted

See smoke build from Walker Fire

The Walker Fire burning in the Plumas National Forest near Quincy in Northern California, started on Sept. 4, 2019.
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The Walker Fire burning in the Plumas National Forest near Quincy in Northern California, started on Sept. 4, 2019.

The Walker Fire burning in Plumas National Forest grew slightly overnight, but fire containment lines held as Tuesday’s weather forecast predicts some relief from “critical” fire conditions.

The wildfire is mapped at 47,340 acres and is 12 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said in a 6 a.m. incident update Tuesday, up from 44,307 acres and 10 percent containment reported Monday evening.

The blaze is burning timber and brush in the Genesee Valley, about 11 miles east of Taylorsville. It is by far the largest wildfire to burn in California this year, according to Cal Fire records.

A mandatory evacuation order for residents along Highway 395, including the communities of Milford and Brockman Canyon, has been reduced to an evacuation warning. Evacuation orders remain in place for Antelope Lake to the Plumas County line, the Ward Creek area, the Flournoy Bridge area and the Genesee Valley Road corridor, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The wildfire ignited last Wednesday but exploded over the course of Friday – from 2,000 acres that morning to 17,000 acres by evening. “Erratic winds” fueled this growth, according to the Forest Service incident page for the wildfire.

Weather conditions are expected to improve Tuesday, with higher humidity and cooler temperatures in the local forecast. Dry and warm weather will return by the end of the week, according to the latest incident update.

A total of 1,096 personnel were assigned to fight the blaze as of Tuesday morning. The wildfire is threatening structures, but none have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported, the Forest Service says.

The Walker Fire’s cause remains under investigation.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.