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Thousands Evacuate As Fires Burn In Lake, Mendocino Counties

UPDATED July 30, 9:38 p.m.

Head here for the latest information on the Mendocino Complex fires, as well as for a full list of evacuation information.

Officials have lifted and reduced evacuation orders for two areas affected by the group of fires known as the Mendocino Complex, though other communities in Lake and Mendocino counties remain under manadatory evacuation.

Residents of Hopland in Mendocino County can now return home, and an order has been reduced to a warning for the area south of 8000 Old River Road, east of the Russian River, north of Highway 175 and west of mile marker 5.6 on Highway 175.

Residents of the town of Lakeport, population 5,000, are still under evacuation after being ordered to leave Sunday night. Two other towns with about 5,000 people are also under mandatory evacuation.

By early evening, Lakeport seemed to be completely deserted, while a few miles away embers, ash and smoke swirled through vineyards where at least one home had gone up in flames.

Firefighters set blazes at the bottom of hills in order to burn up the tinder-dry brush before flames cresting the ridge tops could feed on it and surge downhill. A fleet of aircraft made continuous water and fire retardant drops on the blaze.

"We have experienced fires the last four years, and so we're very aware of what can happen with fires and the damage they can cause," Lake County Sheriff Lt. Corey Paulich said.

Derick Hughes II did not heed the order and remained behind at his property in Nice, California, where he ran sprinklers on his roof and removed yard plants that could catch fire.

The 32-year-old Marine Corps veteran sent his wife and two daughters to safety along with three carloads of belongings. But he said he had too much at stake to leave himself. He bought his three-bedroom house last year using a loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"This is everything I bled for, and I've worked really hard to get to where I am, and I'm just not willing to give it up so easily," he said over the phone. "Some people may think that's selfish of me, and I have insurance. But the way things go, I'd rather not start over."

Hughes said about five of his neighbors also disobeyed the evacuation text alert they got Sunday evening to protect their homes and keep looters out.

So far 23,411 acres have burned in the River Fire with 5 percent containment and 45,076 have burned in the Ranch Fire.

According to Cal Fire seven homes have been destroyed by the Mendocino Complex fires and 10,200 structures are threatened.

Evacuation centers are open at:

  • Mendocino College, Dance Room at 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah
  • Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake Street, Lower Lake
  • Twin Pines Casino, 22223 CA-29, Middletown
  • Clearlake Senior Center, 3245 Bowers Avenue, Clearlake

The Redwood Riders Arena at 8300 East Road in Redwood Valley is accepting horses. Animal Care at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah is accepting small animals.

The Steele Fire in Napa County is 90 percent contained at 135 acres. Cal Fire says it has destroyed eight structures and damaged one other. Evacuations have been lifted except for road closure areas.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Saturday evening for the fires.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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