Wildfire erupts in Calaveras County

Willow Fire burning in Calaveras County
Willow Fire burning in Calaveras County CalFire

A wildfire erupted Sunday afternoon in Calaveras County, burning grassland and trees near San Andreas and forcing mandatory evacuations in a subdivision.

The Willow Fire broke out around 1 p.m. and was burning near Mountain Ranch Road and Willow Creek Road east of San Andreas, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. By early evening, the fire had consumed 450 acres and was 5 percent contained, he said.

“We’re definitely making some good progress,” he said. “The winds are relatively light, which plays into our favor.”

He said mandatory evacuations were in effect in the Willow Valley subdivision, and an evacuation warning was issued for Old Gulch Road between Rocky and Calaveritas roads in the Mountain Ranch area. An evacuation center was set up at San Andreas Town Hall on Church Road.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said five air tankers were dropping fire retardant on the blaze, and 300 firefighters were on the scene throughout the afternoon. Berlant had no information on the cause of the fire.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said 1,100 homes in Mountain Ranch were without power, and the utility said late in the afternoon it wasn’t sure how quickly it would be able to restore power.

The Willow Fire became the latest incident in what is shaping up as another difficult wildfire season in drought-stricken California.

“This was an area that was devastated by the Butte Fire last year,” Berlant said. “Very similar terrain, very similar conditions.” The Butte Fire last September consumed 71,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties.

The Calaveras Enterprise reported that at least one home had been destroyed as of midafternoon; Berlant said he was unable to confirm that.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler