4th Major Blaze This Year Torches Lake County, CA

     LAKEPORT, Calif. (CN) — Less than a year after the third worst fire in California history hit Lake County, another devastating blaze is roaring through the area again.
     The 4,000-acre Clayton Fire ignited Saturday evening, and it’s already destroyed much of downtown Lower Lake, torching 175 structures and threatening 1,500 others, according to Cal Fire’s estimates. About 4,000 people have been evacuated from the towns of Lower Lake and Clearlake, and some 7,000 people were left without electricity at one point on Sunday.
     A cell tower burned down Sunday night, knocking out internet and phone service to some areas, and a shelter housing evacuees in Clearlake was forced to close when it lost power Sunday evening. The Clayton fire is just 5 percent contained as of Monday afternoon, leaving Lake County residents with a sense of deja vu — the 2015 fire season ravaged the county with three major wildfires — the Valley, Rocky, and Jerusalem fires.
     The cause of the Valley Fire, which razed over 1,200 homes in Lake County and is ranked the third most destructive wildfire in California history, was finally determined this past week by Cal Fire: faulty wiring of an outdoor hot tub ignited dry grass, prompting the historic blaze.
     “I don’t think any of us thought that we’d be back here tonight,” state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said at a press conference Sunday night. McGuire represents the entire North Coast, from Marin to Del Norte counties and including Lake County. He also indicated that mental health professionals are being brought in to help residents cope with the disaster.
     The Lake County courthouse was open on Monday, but Konocti Unified School District canceled what would have been the first day of classes.
     Firefighters anticipate a steep road ahead, with Monday afternoon winds and temperatures expected to pick up and potentially spread the fire into Clearlake, the county’s most populated town. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal funds to assist in fighting the Clayton Fire, which the agency classifies as a major disaster.
     FEMA funds will also be sent to efforts to fight the Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared states of emergency in both counties Monday, which frees up state resources for victims.
     There are over a dozen wildfires currently burning in California, which is in its fifth year of severe drought.

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