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King Fire crew: 'We had 3 minutes to save their lives'

The command that blared from the radio was one Gary Dahlen had never heard before, not in all his years piloting helicopters over wildfires.

All available helicopters prepare for an emergency launch.

He hardly knew what to make of it. "I was thinking maybe structures were threatened," Dahlen said later.

He was waiting at a helicopter base in Placerville, Calif., an old gold-mining town where oaks turn to pines as the Sierra Nevada range rises toward Lake Tahoe.

Just uphill, where the American River's south fork cuts a knife-sharp slash through the forest, a wildfire dubbed the King Fire had been exploding up the canyon walls and beyond since Sept. 13. Now, two days later, the airborne and ground attack on the fire was underway.

King Fire nearly 100 percent contained

Firefighters have almost completely contained the King Fire, Cal Fire said Friday night.

The wildfire that has burned 97,717 acres is now 98 percent contained.

"Though suppression efforts are nearing completion, a considerable amount of work remains to be done," the U.S. Forest Service incident information website said. "Crews have been transitioning their focus to 'suppression repairs'... Much of the repair work in the northern part of the fire area has been completed."

The fire began on Forebay Road near Pollock Pines on Saturday, Sept. 13. Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, of Pollock Pines, has been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the blaze, Cal Fire officials said.

King Fire containment increases Tuesday night

Containment of the King Fire grew within 12 hours, while the wildfire held its size.

Cal Fire reported at 8 p.m. Tuesday that firefighters have 94 percent containment on the 97,099-acre blaze. That is a 2 percent increase in containment since Monday night.

"As containment of the fire has increased and excess firefighting resources are being released, the fire is no longer being managed in two zones," Cal Fire said on the King Fire incident page.

A combination of rain, cooler temperatures and humidity have helped firefighters get the upper hand on the massive fire.

The U.S. Forest Service re-opened some wilderness areas Tuesday afternoon that were closed for nearly two weeks due to the King Fire.

King Fire remains 92 percent contained

Firefighters battling the King Fire received more encouraging news Tuesday morning: The blaze did not grow overnight.

Cal Fire reported Tuesday morning that the wildfire burning in El Dorado County and Placer County covered 97,099 acres and was 92 percent contained. Those are the same numbers that Cal Fire reported Monday night.


The fire began on Forebay Road near Pollock Pines on Saturday, Sept. 13.

King Fire now 92-percent contained

Firefighters continue to approach full containment of the King Fire.

Cal Fire reported Monday evening crews have the wildfire burning in El Dorado County and Placer County 92-percent contained. The acreage scorched remained at 97,099 acres.

The fire began on Forebay Road near Pollock Pines on Saturday, Sept. 13.


Firefighters, wet weather push King Fire containment to 87%

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Officials say another night of wet weather helped crews gain further advantage on a massive wildfire in Northern California.

State fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said Saturday that nearly a half an inch of rain, along with cooler temperatures overnight, helped firefighters make significant progress battling the King Fire. The blaze has burned more than 150 square miles of a heavily forested region east of Sacramento.

Cal Fire says the fire is now 87 percent contained as more than 6,400 firefighters will continue strengthening containment lines and authorities will continue assessing the damage.

The blaze has destroyed about a dozen homes near the town of Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. Nearly 300 structures remain threatened, down dramatically from about 21,000 earlier this week.

The fire has cost more than $53 million to fight.

How did the King Fire spread so quickly?

POLLOCK PINES, CA – In order to understand how the King Fire exploded out of control, you have to understand where it started.

It started off of a hiking trail in Pollock Pines, off King of the Mountain Road.

According to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean, the fire initially only burned 1-2 acres off a very steep canyon.

"Evidently some debris rolled off the edge and into the lower elevations," McLean explained.

Cal Fire contained the fire contained the fire to about 80 percent that night. Mop up crews remained on scene. Hours later, McLean said crews realized a spot fire had started down below.

Because of the intense drought-like conditions, it doesn't take much for the fire to take off.