At least 150 people forced to flee homes as winds fuel California wildfire

Erratic winds fanned a wildfire burning through rugged terrain in Northern California on Wednesday, forcing at least 150 people to flee from their homes.

Many in the region about 100 miles north of San Francisco had just returned to their homes after being forced to leave because of an earlier blaze.

Crews lit backfires Wednesday along a road elsewhere in the region as plumes of black and white smoke rose in the sky.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire had expanded across 32 square miles and crews had the flames just 16 percent contained. Full containment isn’t expected to come until Monday.

The fire began in dry timber and brush on Sunday several miles from Lower Lake. It leapt from Lake County into Napa County, but no vineyards in the famous wine-growing region were threatened.

Empire Mini Storage manager Desiree Mcalear said the business in Middletown has had numerous calls and visits from people who want to rent units in case they have to evacuate.

"They're absolutely scared and terrified," she said. "If the winds decide to blow this way, then we all need to take action. Right now, we have the luxury of waiting and being patient."

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze that was threatening 50 structures. No homes have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported.

Meanwhile, firefighters have nearly surrounded a larger nearby blaze that started about two weeks ago and has destroyed 43 homes in its path of destruction.

The causes for both fires remain under investigation.

Temperatures have been relatively mild, but the gusty winds and dry conditions have stoked the wildfires.

In Southern California, evacuation orders were lifted as crews increased containment of a small wildfire sparked by a burning motor home in rural Riverside County.

One person from the motor home was burned, officials said. Three firefighters were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

The blaze about halfway between Temecula and Palm Desert had been held to 450 acres and was 50 percent contained, state fire officials said.

Statewide, 16 active wildfires were burning and being fought by more than 11,000 firefighters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.