Rices fire burns 904 acres in Northern California

Firefighters continued to make headway on Wednesday against a wildfire burning rough terrain in northern California’s remote Nevada County, but authorities warned the work is far from over.

The rice fire that broke out Tuesday had grown to 904 acres with 10% containment by Wednesday night, said Brian Estes, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Nevada-Yuba Placer Unit.

“We’re definitely not over the hill yet, but we’ve made some significant progress,” said Estes.

The fire burned to the bottom of the Yuba River outflow overnight and into the early hours of Wednesday morning, which firefighters feared could endanger nearby communities in Yuba County. But crews were able to prevent the fire from crossing the river, Estes said.

As of Wednesday night, the fire was “100% in Nevada County,” he said.

When last checked around 6:00 p.m., hand crews on the left flank of the fire were about 1,000 feet from “cutting that out and pinning it to the bottom of the river gorge,” Estes said. On the right flank, the crews were 150 feet from the river bottom.

“Just an incredible effort in one of the most unforgiving and treacherous terrains in our region,” said Estes. “I cannot underestimate the efforts of all of our Cal Fire firefighters, fire crews, our allied agencies, and our representatives from across the region.”

Firefighters work in one of the deepest and largest river canyons in Northern California, navigating terrain “punctuated by sharp corners and huge rock embankments that closely resemble sheer cliffs,” Estes said.

“It gets particularly dangerous at night,” he said. “We always try to go to the firing line as directly as possible. It’s the safest, most effective way to fight fires, but there are areas in this canyon… where you can’t physically get people across some of these rock falls.”

In an evening update, Cal Fire officials said five firefighters were injured. They did not provide any information about the extent or nature of the injuries.

A map of a portion of Northern California shows the location of the Rice Fire southeast of Oroville and northeast of Yuba City

Investigators determined the fire started in a building before spreading to surrounding vegetation, Estes said. What caused the fire is still under investigation.

Authorities have confirmed only one structure was destroyed, Estes said, but there are almost certainly others. Cal Fire had reported four buildings destroyed earlier Wednesday.

“We know there is more and our damage inspection teams will be scouring the area in detail as early as this evening and well into the morning,” Estes said.

Once that survey is complete, by Thursday afternoon or evening, authorities will have a much more accurate picture of the number of buildings damaged or destroyed.

“We have a big firefight ahead of us tomorrow,” Estes said. “Though you may not have seen the plumes and pillars you saw in the first 24 hours, rest assured there is much fire beneath this reversal.”

Authorities hope to have the fire contained by Friday, but that may change.

Evacuation orders remain in place in four Nevada County zones, Capt. Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities estimate there are about 250 homes and about 300 people in the areas affected by these orders, Brown said.

Another five zones in Nevada County are under evacuation warnings, he said.

For a detailed map of areas covered by evacuation orders and warnings, see readynevadacounty.org/dashboard.

As of Wednesday, just over 700 employees were assigned to the Rice fire, Estes said. The crews planned to work through the night.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-29/rices-fire-northern-california-nevada-county-dangerous-terrain Rices fire burns 904 acres in Northern California

Alley Einstein

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