(Reuters) - A fast-moving wildfire that broke out on Thursday on the outskirts of a National Forest in Northern California has prompted the evacuation of a community college, a major highway and some residents, officials said.
The Mountain Fire, which erupted about noon PDT just north of the town of Bella Vista in Shasta County, had raced across some 600 acres (240 hectares) within a few hours, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said on its incident website.
Photos of the blaze posted on Twitter by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office showed thick black and gray smoke billowing into the area over a highway near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. There was no containment of the flames.
“Jones Valley and Bella Vista area residents! This situation is very fluid and rapidly changing, if you do not see your road listed but feel you are in danger YOU MAY EVACUATE to Shasta College Gymnasium,” the sheriff’s department said in a separate tweet.
The Shasta College campus was closed along with Highway 299 and about a dozen smaller roads. Residents of small communities in the path of the flames were told to evacuate or be prepared to flee on short notice.
California was hit by some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in a century last year and state officials have warned this year’s fire season could be similarly intense.
The Camp Fire, which broke out in Butte County in November and overran the town of Paradise, killed 89 people and left thousands of others homeless. State fire investigators determined that the Camp Fire was sparked by Pacific Gas & Electric Co transmission lines.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney