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Sites Fire contained; Mill Fire rages
Archery season for deer hunting was scheduled to open today, but a closure order remains in effect for the fire area of the south central portion of the Grindstone Ranger District. The Snow Mountain Wilderness Area is still open and accessible from northern trailheads, including West Crockett.
In addition to hunting, the Grindstone Ranger District provides unique recreation opportunities including a popular off-highway vehicle trail system. The fire has impacted 90 miles or two-thirds of this system.
The blackened hillsides around Sites are all that is left of a fire that scorched 4,185 acres over five days.
CalFire on Friday announced the Sites Fire is fully contained, but crews will remain on scene for the next couple of days to knock down the last of the flames inside the perimeter and mop up any hot spots.
The cause of the fire is considered to be suspicious, said Colusa County Sheriff Scott Marshall, who raved about the CalFire response.
That effort saved the department's communication tower along the Lodoga grapevine. PG&E and federal towers also were saved.
"It burned right up to the buildings, but it was saved," Marshall said.
Farther west, the Mill Fire continues to burn, filling the sky with thick black and brown smoke as it consumes more than 23,400 acres in western Colusa and Glenn counties — mostly in the Mendocino National Forest.
More than 100 buildings have been threatened by the blaze, which started about 3 p.m. on July 7 near the Mill Valley Campground.
The cause is under investigation, officials said.
Dennis Workman watched as flames intensified in the hillside south of his home along Stonyford-Lodoga Road on Thursday.
But unlike the fire that runs unchecked in some of the more remote areas of the national forest, the fire near Workman's house was set on purpose.
"It's the right thing to do, and they have some really good fire breaks cut up there, so I am not concerned at all," said Workman, who retired to the area about six years ago after spending a great deal of time in the area dirt bike riding in with his sons.
A member of the Stonyford fire department, and an emergency medical technician, Workman said he expected the U.S. Forest Department would start the backfires even before they did.
The backfires continued to be set Friday as a way of strengthening existing containment lines, and protecting homes in the area.
In some areas, helicopter crews fired ping pong-like balls into the hillside to start the blaze.
Larry Trombley reported that one line started Friday was only about a block and a half away from his home on Lake View Loop.
But like Workman, he is confident the fire crews know what they are doing.
Additionally, crews are stationed near homes close to the backfires in the event something changes.
Perhaps the bigger annoyance — and for some a serious health risk — is the smoke.
Trombley had to take his brother, Ted Trombley, to a hospital in Sacramento earlier in the week because of respiratory issues caused by all the smoke.
There were other reports of area residents with heart issues being taken out of the area by ambulance, but official fire sources said they are unaware of that happening.
As of Friday morning, the fire was listed as 45 percent contained.
Three firefighters have suffered what have been described as minor injuries, officials said.
Five outbuildings have been destroyed. At least one, forest officials said, was a kind of hunting residence, but they were not sure if it was a trailer or some kind of small cabin.
The cost to fight the blaze has exceeded $6.1 million, officials said.