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Wildfire breaks out near Hiouchi

An air tanker drops its load of fire retardant on a hot spot on the east side of Myrtle Creek where a fire broke out Saturday. Two air tankers, not used simultaneously, and a helicopter doused the fire from air while the ground crews worked to contain it. (Eric Caldwell).
An air tanker drops its load of fire retardant on a hot spot on the east side of Myrtle Creek where a fire broke out Saturday. Two air tankers, not used simultaneously, and a helicopter doused the fire from air while the ground crews worked to contain it. (Eric Caldwell).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A wildfire that broke out Saturday afternoon near Hiouchi was contained early Sunday, but has still not been officially controlled.

The cause of the fire, which burned approximately 10 acres near Myrtle Creek, is still under investigation, said fire management officer Dave Webb of the Smith River National Recreation Area.

"There were no lightning storms or power lines down in the area, so it points to a human cause," Webb said. "But we're still investigating that right now."

The blaze was reported at about 3 p.m. Saturday. Two small spot fires also popped up nearby later on Saturday.

Because of the area's unusually warm, dry weather and the wind, Webb said, fire crews have taken extra precautions.

"We haven't declared it out yet. We contained it at about 1 a.m. Sunday, but we're not going to declare it controlled for a while," said Webb. "With the weather conditions as they are, and the two spot fires that popped up, we want to keep on top of it."

There were no reports of structures damaged or people injured by the fire.

Along with the Smith River National Recreation Area firefighting crews, Webb said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection also responded to the Hiouchi fire, as well as volunteer fire crews from throughout Del Norte County.

Ernie Rohl of the California Forestry Department said residents throughout Del Norte and Humboldt counties need to be on alert due to a shortage of crews in the area. He said his agency has shifted 10 fire crews and 10 engines from the two-county area to aid in fighting the massive Southern California blazes.

"We don't see weather like this very often, and it's been like this for a month and a half. So we're ready for something to happen," said Rohl.

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