SAN FRANCISCO – Eight firefighters who suffered minor burns while battling a wildfire in Northern California left the hospital Saturday as crews gained enough ground on other blazes across the West to allow hundreds of people to return to their homes.
Three firefighters from Santa Clara County and five inmate firefighters from the Salt Creek Camp, a minimum-security facility in California, received minor burns as they battled a fast-moving blaze about 160 miles north of San Francisco in Mendocino County late Friday night.
The inmate crews work side by side with firefighters and do everything from battling blazes to helping build containment lines, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said.
The injured firefighters were released early Saturday, just hours after being airlifted to the burn center at the University of California, Davis, for treatment, Tolmachoff said. No details were immediately available on how they were injured.
"They are in good spirits," Tolmachoff said. "Although their injuries were minor, we still take them very seriously."
An evacuation order was issued late Friday for the fire that now threatens nearly 60 structures across six communities, Tolmachoff said. The blaze, which was started by lightning on Wednesday, has charred more than 11 square miles in steep and rugged terrain but is partially contained, officials said.
Nearly 2,000 firefighters and 15 helicopters battled the fire in the Wilderness Lodge Area near Laytonville, Capt. Carlos Guerrero said Saturday.
"The fire is burning in heaving timber and is proving to be quite a challenge," Tolmachoff said, adding that crews faced dry, breezy conditions in anticipation of more lightning strikes Sunday.
"That could create a whole new set of problems," she said.
Elsewhere in the West:
-- The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning -- designed to alert the public that conditions are ideal for more wildfires -- for central Oregon. The warning is in effect from 1 p.m. Sunday to 11 a.m. Tuesday.
"Thunderstorms will start with little to no rainfall on Sunday afternoon, then as the atmosphere moistens, some areas may receive significant rainfall while others will continue to see little rainfall," the weather service said in its announcement.
Crews gained more control over a wildfire in Oregon's wind-swept Columbia River Gorge, allowing the evacuation order for 740 threatened residences to be lifted, the state Department of Forestry said Saturday.
Officials told residents to remain on alert because firefighters were concerned about unburned fuel near the fire, which has charred about 5 square miles since it started Tuesday.
-- A dozen wildfires in central and eastern Washington state put more than a thousand homes and structures in some danger Saturday, though firefighters started to get control of about half the blazes.
-- Crews reached partial containment of Idaho's largest wildfire, which has burned about 92 square miles on the Idaho side of the Snake River across from Oregon and Washington.
Three firefighters there have been injured: One received a gash on his leg from a chain saw and required stitches, another suffered heat-related problems, and a third had a scratched cornea.