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AP News

Strong winds hinder efforts to contain wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A series of red flag warnings remained in effect until early Wednesday, raising concerns for fire officials about containing two major wildfires in Northern California.

Strong winds, coupled with low humidity, stalled efforts to stop the once-massive Ponderosa Fire, which remained at 96 percent containment, state fire spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson said.

"We have a line almost completely around it, but it's not a secure line," Hutchinson said.

"We're hoping for tomorrow (Tuesday) but because of the wind and other factors, we can't say for sure," she said.

Elsewhere, authorities in northwest Siskiyou County ordered about 300 residents in Seiad Valley to evacuate as a fast-moving wildfire threatened about 85 homes, but not all residents heeded orders to get out.

"We have a pretty good response, about half of the residents have left," Siskiyou County Assistant Sheriff Jim Betts said.

Fire crews were positioned around the homes and roadblocks were set up to keep people out of the evacuation area.

"We're going to allow people to leave, but we're not going to let people back in," Betts said.

Late Tuesday the wildfire had consumed more than 22 square miles, but fire crews, aided by a slight increase in humidity, were able to keep the blaze from burning any homes, fire spokesman Brian Haines said.

"When the sun comes up and if the winds pick up we could be going at it again in the morning," Haines said.

The Ponderosa Fire was burning about 150 miles north of Sacramento after chewing through more than 43 square miles and destroying more than 142 structures since it started nearly two weeks ago.

Strong winds also impacted efforts to contain a fire in Plumas National Forest that was 71 percent contained after it scorched more than 114 square miles.

With more than 1,500 firefighters, 140 engines and numerous helicopters battling the blaze, crews were optimistic it could be contained by Friday.

"That's the plan," fire spokesman John Daugherty said. "We want to have a full line around it and hope that it won't jump and take off again."

However, Daugherty said there could be problems, as strong winds approached the southern rim of the steadily burning blaze.

"The fire will continue to burn actively, but we're not expecting any more growth," Daugherty said. "Again, this could be another test."

The fires were among eight major blazes actively burning across the state, Hutchinson said.

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