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Fresh evacuations for communities near California forest fire

A firefighter sprays water while trying to keep the Electra Fire from spreading in the Pine Acres community of Amador County (AP)
A firefighter sprays water while trying to keep the Electra Fire from spreading in the Pine Acres community of Amador County (AP)

Evacuation orders have been expanded for remote California communities near a wildfire that may have been sparked by fireworks or a barbecue during July 4 celebrations.

The Electra Fire in Sierra Nevada Gold Country – a mountainous region that brings in many tourists – broke out on Monday afternoon and tripled in size to about 6.1 square miles. It was 5% contained on Tuesday night.

The fire is making short, uphill runs, fire officials said.

“The rate of spread is not what it was like yesterday, but it is still spreading,” said Amador County Sheriff Gary Redman.

Plane dropping fire retardant
An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Electra Fire (AP)

He said firefighters were working to keep flames confined to unpopulated canyon areas.

Mandatory evacuation orders and warnings combined affected up to 700 residents in Amador County and 300 to 400 people in Calaveras County, Mr Redman said.

Evacuation centres were set up for people and animals.

The fire started at a recreation area that was packed with people, forcing 85 to 100 celebrating the US Independence Day holiday at a river to take shelter at a Pacific Gas & Electric Co facility, Mr Redman said. All were later safely evacuated.

He said the cause of the fire was not known, but that it started in the Vox Beach area of the North Fork Mokelumne River.

California Wildfires
A firefighter burns vegetation while trying to keep the Electra Fire from reaching homes in the Pine Acres community of Amador County, California (AP)

The sheriff said that could suggest fireworks or a barbecue as a potential cause.

More than 100 fire engines, 1,200 firefighters and 14 helicopters were sent to the fire, which was a threat to power infrastructure, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The terrain was described as steep and rugged.

Cal Fire activated an incident management team for the fire. The teams “are made up of trained personnel who provide operational management and support to large-scale, expanding incidents,” a spokesperson said.

One firefighter from the local fire protection district suffered burn injuries, Mr Redman said.

Vox Beach is about 55 miles east of Sacramento in the heart of the Sierra Nevada region that is steeped with the history of the mid-1800s Gold Rush.

Several other small fires are burning in the state.