California's King Fire Grows To 80K Acres

Even with almost 5,000 firefighters on the scene and record fire retardant drops, the blaze is only 10 percent contained.

California's King Fire Grows To 80K Acres
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Northern California’s King fire has grown to approximately 80,000 acres as of Saturday.

Wednesday of last week the fire exploded, tripling in size. Now, even with almost 5,000 firefighters working the blaze, officials say it’s only about 10 percent contained.

A spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the Los Angeles Times state and federal crews are now working at the fire from both ends. “It's very rare we'd have this many firefighters and this much complexity in a fire.”

The manpower is more unusual given the King fire isn’t close to record-setting size yet.

2013’s Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park took nearly 5,000 firefighters to contain, as well. But it burned more than 250,000 acres — an area three times the size of the King fire. (Video via CBS)

That said, the King fire has set a record — for the most chemical retardant dropped on a fire.

The Weather Channel reports crews have dumped more than half a million gallons of liquid retardant, in hopes of slowing the blaze down enough to let ground teams make some headway.

TONY LOPEZ, KOVR: “We’ve had bigger fires before, so why does it take so much retardant this time?”

LYNNE TOLMACHOFF, CAL FIRE: “Initially this fire was burning in a very populated area. The other thing is we’re back into our third year of a drought. A very severe drought.” (Video via KOVR)

That drought has been turning the state brown. NASA satellites monitoring California’s ground cover from orbit have watched the state dry out since the beginning of the year  — and have tracked a plume of smoke from the King fire that now reaches into Nevada.

Officials have charged Wayne Allan Huntsman, who is suspected of starting the King fire, with felony arson. Huntsman pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday. (Video via KXTV)

Meanwhile, the fire threatens some 12,000 homes. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office is maintaining a list of current evacuations on its website.