Wildfire near Winters grows explosively, evacuations ordered

Wildfire forces evacuations, closes part of Highway 128​

A wildfire near Winters -- named the Cold Fire -- started around 4:30 p.m. and forced evacuations. A portion of Highway 128 is closed.
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A wildfire near Winters -- named the Cold Fire -- started around 4:30 p.m. and forced evacuations. A portion of Highway 128 is closed.

A wildfire burning west of the city of Winters raced ahead of firefighters’ efforts to control it and exploded from about 600 acres earlier Tuesday night to 1,700 acres by 10 p.m., the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Steep terrain, a parched landscape and the difficulty for ground crews of reaching the fire had allowed it to spread mostly unchecked since nightfall, when firefighting aircraft were grounded, said Doug Pittman, a Marin County Sheriff’s deputy who was acting as a field spokesman for Cal Fire.

“We’re very reliant on ground crews and dozers right now,” Pittman said, as he drove near the fire scene.

The Cold Fire, as it’s being called, prompted evacuation of a campground and residential area of about three dozen homes in the dry grassy slopes of western Yolo County. It started about 4:36 p.m. Tuesday off Highway 128, west of Pleasant Valley Road.

Aircraft handled the initial attack before sunset, and bulldozers were being used to clear routes for engines and hand crews Tuesday night, authorities said.

Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire in Sacramento, said the fire spread rapidly and fire officials were trying to get as many resources on scene as possible early Tuesday evening.

“It’s a very dynamic situation,” she said.

As of 5:40 p.m., the fire had burned 200 acres. By 8:30 Cal Fire said it had expanded to 600 acres. And by 10 p.m. official estimates were that the fire had grown to 1,700 acres with no containment.

“The fire continues to burn to the northeast in grass and oak woodlands,” Cal Fire said on its website. “The fire is wind and terrain driven with difficult access. Ground resources will continue to be used through the night.”

About 500 personnel and 30 engines had been deployed to the fire by late Tuesday, the agency said.

Evacuations were in effect for Canyon Creek Resort off Highway 128 and Golden Bear Estates, a residential area off County Road 34. The state Department of Transportation reported that Highway 128 was closed from the Monticello Dam on Lake Berryessa to Plesants Valley Road.

Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman, was en route to the Cold Fire on Tuesday night. He said it is burning in a remote area that sits roughly between the 8,000 acres burned by the Wragg Fire in July and August 2015 and the 6,500 acres blackened by the Monticello Fire in July 2014.

Both fires were near Lake Berryessa. The Monticello Fire was in Yolo County; the Wragg Fire burned in Napa and Solano counties.

McLean said some of the resources that had been sent to the 99 Fire in Butte County, south of Chico, earlier in the day had been diverted to the Cold Fire on Tuesday. The 99 Fire, off Highway 99 and Neal Road, was reported 60 percent contained with 560 acres burned Tuesday night.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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