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Update: Hot, windy conditions make for difficult Yolo firefight

Cal Fire airlift an injured bulldozer operator from the Monticello Fire on the east side of the mountain Sunday July 6, 2014 near Winters.
Cal Fire airlift an injured bulldozer operator from the Monticello Fire on the east side of the mountain Sunday July 6, 2014 near Winters.

Firefighters will work under arduous conditions Monday to stop the advance of a wildland fire that so far has burned nearly 6,500 acres in rural Yolo County.

“You couple steep, rugged terrain with extreme temperatures and we will have a challenge today,” said Kevin Lucero, Cal Fire information officer.

The Monticello fire in western Yolo County has burned 6,488 acres, authorities reported Monday morning.

The fire was 35 percent contained Monday -- up from 30 percent Sunday night. Hundreds of firefighters are still fighting the blaze in dry brush.

The firefighters are clearing brush in an area with steep canyons and high ridge lines. Crews have had to hike several miles to where they begin their firefighting tasks.

While progress was made overnight, sizzling temperatures Monday could spell tough firefighting.

“The terrain and the difficulty in accessing the area has been a problem,” said Lucero. “There are not a lot of roads up there. And the high temperatures have continued to be a problem.”

Firefighters expect some erratic wind shifts on Monday. The windy conditions could come with gusts up to 20-30 mph on ridge lines and downslopes.

The most ominous winds could come from the north-northwest, which are likely to arrive with lower humidity and 100-degree temperatures. Cal Fire officials have no estimate of full fire containment.

About 1,600 firefighters are on the front lines of the fire. Ground crews on Monday were busy cutting containment lines, trying to stop the advance of the blaze. The crews are aided by bulldozers plowing lines in grassy oak woodland that transitions into manzanita.

“We need to get ahead of the fire and cut enough line that is wide enough so that we can make a good break,” said Lucero.

The fire started just after 9:30 p.m. Friday off Highway 128 at the Monticello dam on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Ten structures in remote Yolo County are still threatened Monday, Lucero said. However, the evacuation order for the Golden Bear Estates subdivision, about 40 homes, was lifted Sunday about 8 p.m. Several campgrounds along Highway 128 remain closed but home owners have been allowed to return home.

The fire is primarily located in Yolo County, but also stretches into Napa and Solano counties. A total of 142 fire engines, 60 hand crews, 36 bulldozers, 16 helicopters and six air tankers are fighting the blaze.

“Helicopters will be making water drops,” said Lucero. “The air tankers will be dropping fire retardant. The air resources will slow its progression long enough to get in ground resources. What will put this fire out is boots on the ground.”

Also being fought by crews on Monday was the Butts Canyon fire in Lake and Napa counties. The Butts fire destroyed two homes, seven outbuildings and burned 4,300 acres. It was 90 percent contained Monday morning -- up from 80 percent on Sunday.

Full containment is expected Tuesday as more than 300 firefighters were working to extinguish the blaze.

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