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Rocky fire grows, shuts down Highway 20

Stebbins Cold Canyon Natural Reserve closed after Wragg Fire

Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve was closed after Wragg Fire burns trail. Video by Hector Amezcua, The Sacramento Bee
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Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve was closed after Wragg Fire burns trail. Video by Hector Amezcua, The Sacramento Bee

Mandatory evacuations were increased near the fast-moving Rocky fire as it spread to 25,750 acres Saturday.

The fire, which began Wednesday, has destroyed 14 residences and is threatening 6,100 structures. The blaze forced the closure Saturday evening of Highway 20 between Highway 53 and Interstate 5, shutting down a major east-west connector between the Sacramento Valley and North Coast. Highway 16 was also closed at County Road 41 in Rumsey up to the junction with Highway 20.

Cal Fire also announced evacuation orders Saturday for the Double Eagle housing development as well as areas east of the Cache Creek recreation area along Highway 20 to Walker Ridge Road as the fire progressed.

The Lake County blaze – one of 23 in the state – grew from the 18,000 acres reported Friday. Containment remained at 5 percent Saturday for the fire, which started near Morgan Valley Road and Rocky Creek Road east of Lower Lake. Cal Fire described the blaze as a fast-moving fire that is in a steep area and difficult to reach. Roughly 1,500 firefighters from various agencies are battling the fire.

Cal Fire plans a community meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday at Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St. in Lower Lake, to discuss the Rocky fire.

Authorities are still investigating the Thursday death of U.S. Forest Service firefighter David Ruhl, who died while responding to the Frog fire in the Modoc National Forest. Ruhl was found Friday morning after a search and rescue effort Thursday night, according to a Forest Service news release. The report did not identify where he was found or the cause of death.

“All we know is he was en route and the fire overtook him,” Ken Sandusky, a forest service information officer, said Saturday.

Officials said Ruhl had been on temporary assignment to the Big Valley Ranger District of the Modoc National Forest as an assistant fire management officer since June 14. His permanent position was engine captain in the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City, S.D.

The Frog fire, southeast of Lava Camp in the Big Valley Ranger District, started Thursday afternoon and had grown to 1,850 acres by Saturday, with spot fires occurring ahead of the fire front. It was estimated at 5 percent containment Saturday.

The loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking. Please keep the family and all of our Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

on death of firefighter David Ruhl

Ruhl’s death has been the sole reported fatality during the recent California wildfires. Four firefighters were reported injured battling the Lowell fire, which began July 25 in Nevada and Placer counties. The fire was reported 75 percent contained, with 2,303 acres burned. All evacuations were lifted.

Firefighters gained Saturday on the Wragg fire, which began July 22 in Napa and Solano counties. The blaze was 92 percent contained Saturday with 8,051 acres burned. Full containment is expected Monday.

Containment increased to 90 percent Saturday in the Swede fire, with 400 acres burned. All evacuations were lifted. The fire started Wednesday in Butte County.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday declared a state of emergency across the state in response to the wildfires.

Jennifer Crane: 916-321-1161, @Jenn_Crane

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