KERNVILLE – The fire raging near California’s giant sequoias grew by another 1,500 acres Sunday, but the ancient redwoods seemed to be largely out of trouble, fire officials said.
The fire spread north toward Rattlesnake Canyon and the Golden Trout Wilderness in the northeast part of the Sequoia National Forest, where the terrain is steep.
Firefighters on the ground and in the air continued to work on the western edge of the blaze to protect 11 groves of sequoias, some of the world’s oldest and largest trees. The trees aren’t completely safe just yet, but firefighters have minimized the threat, said fire information officer Jill Slater.
“They’re really getting a handle on it,” she said.
The 66,000-acre wildfire remained 30 percent contained Sunday morning, Slater said.
A Bakersfield woman is accused of igniting the fire about 130 miles north of Los Angeles while cooking hotdogs over an illegal campfire. Peri Van Brunt, 45, was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, but entered no plea. She remains in custody.
The fire has consumed more than 90 square miles. Firefighters were building more than 80 miles of firebreaks to contain it.
The nighttime weather, which was cool and humid, has favored the firefighters’ efforts, although it’s still windy in the daytime, officials said.
Higher humidity and softer winds the last few days were a change from the conditions that sent the fire raging out of control its first few days, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Sue Exline.
Firefighters hosted meetings to update residents on the fire’s progress Friday night in California Hot Springs and at the Pierpoint Springs Resort, and had more planned.
There was no telling when residents evacuated from Ponderosa, Johnsondale and other areas might be able to return, fire officials said. At least 10 structures had burned and 200 were threatened, though firefighters said most appeared now to be safe.
The campsite where Van Brunt is alleged to have ignited the blaze had been cordoned off with crime scene tape. White-bread toast and beer cans littered the riverside campsite, along with the burned shards of a tent. Authorities said Van Brunt was cooking hot dogs when her unpermitted campfire got out of control.
The cost of the fire climbed to an estimated $9.1 million as close to 2,278 firefighters worked in shifts around the clock to build firelines and douse flames.
About half the fire was within the 327,769-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument, within Sequoia National Forest. It has burned within a mile of the Packsaddle Grove, and within two miles of the Trail of 100 Giants.