LOS ANGELES — A wildfire in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada mountains has damaged and destroyed some homes in a small community, as thousands of residents remain evacuated and gusty winds on Saturday are expected to fan the flames, officials said.
Officials did not yet have a complete damage assessment from the charred community of White Meadows. On Friday, they reported the week-old King Fire had for the first time torched homes.
“The structures that did burn, many of them were completely consumed as the trees around them burned top to bottom. In many places, they were just black sticks,” said Mike McMillan, a spokesman for the team fighting the blaze.
The King Fire has blackened more than 80,000 acres and become the most menacing of seven major blazes in drought-parched California. The fire has burned parts of the El Dorado and Taho national forests.
Investigators have arrested Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, on charges of arson, accusing him of starting the blaze.
Huntsman pleaded not guilty on Friday and was being held in lieu of $10 million bail. The criminal complaint lists previous convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, theft and receiving stolen property.
The King Fire, which is only 10 percent contained, has ravaged the El Dorado National Forest, a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts northeast of Sacramento. The largest community it has threatened is Pollock Pines, with a population of about 7,000.
Residents of the town who had been evacuated were allowed to return home on Friday, McMillan said.
Meanwhile, nearly 20 miles north of Pollock Pines, the northern flank of the fire was burning in the Tahoe National Forest, he said.
About 2,800 residents of several communities around the King Fire remained evacuated on Saturday, officials said. They said the blaze threatened 12,000 structures which included everything from houses to agricultural buildings.
The weather will stay dry on Saturday, hampering the efforts of 5,000 firefighters deployed against the blaze, with gusts of 20 to 30 mph, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.
Cooler weather was not expected until Monday, it said.