Evacuations ordered as 600-acre-plus wildfire burns in Butte County, Cal Fire says

A fast-growing fire prompted mandatory evacuations for nearly 400 structures Monday evening in rural Butte County, Cal Fire officials said, but fire authorities reported good progress Tuesday morning in containment efforts as weather conditions improved.

The Apache Fire is burning east of Palermo and was 673 acres with 15% containment, according to a Cal Fire update around 7 a.m. Tuesday. The vegetation fire sparked around 7:20 p.m. Monday near Apache Hill Road.

Two structures were destroyed as of Cal Fire’s Tuesday morning update — a home and an outbuilding. One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

More than 600 personnel were assigned to the Apache Fire as of Tuesday morning, according to Cal Fire’s midday update. Air resources were also deployed, including at least two helicopters.

Crews made progress slowing the blaze as winds calmed late Monday and early Tuesday, Cal Fire officials said.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office as of 10 p.m. had issued mandatory evacuations for zones PAL-865, 866, 868, 869, 884, 885, 886 and 887-A. Zones OSE-826, PAL-867 and 883 were under a voluntary evacuation advisory.

The zones with mandatory evacuation orders include at least 383 structures, according to Butte County evacuation maps. Palermo is home to about 5,500 people.

Cal Fire’s Butte unit said in initial social media posts Monday evening that the fire, first reported at 30 acres, was burning with a “dangerous rate of spread.” The fire within two hours had grown to more than 460 acres.

The National Weather Service warned of potential for more dangerous weather conditions Tuesday evening. More gusty winds and new lightning-ignited fire starts were possible, as forecasts showed a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms passing through Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills, according to the weather service’s Sacramento office.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation as of Tuesday.

An evacuation shelter was opened at the Butte County Fairgrounds, 199 E. Hazel St., Gridley. Officials also opened two shelters for animals: large animals can be taken to Camelot Equestrian Park, 1985 Clark Road, Butte Valley; small animals are welcome at the county’s building at 2279 Del Oro Ave., Oroville.