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Corral hearth injures two firefighters and destroys one house

A wildfire that broke out near a local explosives and material testing site in San Joaquin County over the weekend, forcing residents to evacuate their homes, injured two firefighters and completely destroyed one home, authorities announced.

The Corral fire, which began Saturday afternoon near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Site 300, is burning to the west of Interstate 580. It had grown to 14,168 acres by Sunday night.

The fire is 75% contained as of Monday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Feeding on light, dry grass, the blaze moved toward Tracy, a city of about 100,000 east of San Francisco, and triggered mandatory evacuations that were downgraded to warnings at 6 p.m. Sunday.

“Residents are advised to remain vigilant and prepared for potential changes,” San Joaquin County’s office of emergency services said in a notice to residents.

One home near the Tracy Golf & Country Club burned completely to the ground. Officials were also concerned about the fire reaching the new Tracy Hills planned community, which has a couple homes.

“We had such strong winds and this grass fire was able to spread to more than 14,000 acres in essentially a day,” said Cecile Juliette, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Santa Cruz unit.

On Saturday, Laura Tosti evacuated with her family and animals as the blaze came dangerously close to reaching her Tracy home, she told KCRA 3.

Her friends and family had showed up at her house with trucks and trailers to help transport Tosti’s livestock. She was eventually able to return to the home Sunday night.

“We feel very blessed for what we have,” she told the TV station.

The fire was also considered a threat to the nearby laboratory, which the Environmental Protection Agency describes as a “high-explosives and materials testing site in support of nuclear weapons research,” the Associated Press reported Sunday.

The EPA said operations at the site, which began in the 1950s, “contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals,” and long-term cleanup is ongoing.

The fire briefly shut down Interstate 580, but all lanes have since reopened. Local closures remain in place while crews continue to battle the blaze.

About 475 CAL Fire personnel, 45 fire engines, 14 crews and 15 water tenders have been deployed to help fight the blaze.

As of Monday morning, weather conditions have made it more favorable for crews to try to control the fire.

Temperatures near the Tracy airport were in the low 70s Monday morning, with relative humidity in the mid 50s, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Nathan Rick. Winds were between 20 to 25 miles per hour.

Throughout Monday afternoon, sustained winds are supposed to pick up to the 25 to 30 miles per hour range, with temperatures in the mid to upper 80s. By Tuesday afternoon, relative humidity is expected to drop into the upper teens to low 20s.

“That’s when we start to get a little more concerned with fire weather potential,” Rick added.

It’s typical to see large grass fires at this time of year in Northern California because grasses tend to be fully cured or dried out by May or June, said Craig Clements, professor and chair of the department of meteorology and climate science and director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San José State University.

The fire burned during relatively cool, moist conditions, carried by a strong sea breeze through the Altamont Pass, east of Livermore, but was stoked by dry grasses and strong winds, according to Clements.

“With that amount of wind, fires can spread really quickly,” he said.

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