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UPDATE: Applegate fire 55 percent contained

A plane drops flame retardant over the American River Canyon near Applegate on Thursday. The fire, which erupted along Interstate 80 in Placer County, destroyed six homes and was 55 percent contained Friday.
A plane drops flame retardant over the American River Canyon near Applegate on Thursday. The fire, which erupted along Interstate 80 in Placer County, destroyed six homes and was 55 percent contained Friday. lsterling@sacbee.com

Residents were allowed to return Friday to some areas that had been under mandatory evacuation orders due to the Applegate fire, which had burned 459 acres and was 55 percent contained Friday night.

As of noon Friday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reduced the evacuation order to an evacuation warning for all areas east of Interstate 80 to the American River and north of the intersection or Swanson Lane and Ponderosa Way to John Muir Road, as well as all areas and roads east of I-80 to the American River, south of Hidden Meadow Way and north of Pepper Ranch Road. Proof of residency is required to enter the areas.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for all areas and roads east of Applegate Road at Cody Lane to the American River, south of Swanson Lane and Ponderosa, and north of Hidden Meadow Way.

Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire, said Friday evening that about half of the the people evacuated because of the fire have been allowed to return home.

Friday afternoon, the state Department of Transportation reported all lanes of I-80 through the Applegate and Weimar areas open to traffic. Eastbound traffic had been reduced to one lane earlier in the day to allow for the fire investigation.

Road closures remain in effect at the dead end of Paoli Lane, Ponderosa Way south of Swanson Lane, Eagle Ridge Road at Forest Hill Road, Applegate Road at Hidden Meadow Way, and Applegate Road at Rigby Lanes, according to a Cal Fire news release.

The Red Cross announced that the evacuation shelter at Sierra Vista Community Center was closed as of 1 p.m. Friday. One Red Cross shelter remains open, at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 100 East St., Auburn. Residents affected by the fire and in need of assistance may also visit the Red Cross office at 457 Grass Valley Highway, Suite 8, in Auburn between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. today.

The Applegate fire has destroyed six houses and four outbuildings. Most of the homes were on Sun Valley Road, Tolmachoff said.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

Late Thursday to early Friday, the fire did not make a dramatic overnight run reminiscent of the King fire, which charred nearly 98,000 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties before it was contained.

Tolmachoff said firefighters concentrated Friday on strengthening containment lines.

“A couple of areas were difficult due to the terrain,” she said.

A red-flag warning is in effect for today in the fire area as well as much of Northern California. If winds pick up, embers from hot spots could spread the fire, Tolmachoff said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation. Investigators have not ruled out arson or the possibility that the blaze could have been started by something such as a chain hanging from a trailer that sent sparks into dry roadside grass.

The fire started nearly simultaneously on Wednesday afternoon at five to seven spots along the highway.

About 1,300 personnel are assigned to the blaze.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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