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Tuesday 21 January 2020

California wildfires triple in size

Wildfire along the Pacific Coast Highway near Ventura, California (AP)
Wildfire along the Pacific Coast Highway near Ventura, California (AP)
Flame and smoke rise from the naval base at Point Mugu, California (AP)
A helicopter gets ready to drop water on a wildfire in southern California (AP)

A wildfire tearing through a coastal region in Southern California has nearly tripled in size as high temperatures fuelled the flames, but an expected weekend change in the weather is likely to give crews manning the fire lines much-needed assistance.

The fire, 50 miles north-west of Los Angeles, mushroomed to 43 square miles as 900 firefighters used engines, aircraft, bulldozers and other equipment to battle the flames.

Forecasters said a weekend of increased humidity should help teams fighting the early-season blaze make gains.

Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out on Thursday and quickly moved through the Camarillo Springs area has caused damage to just 15 structures, though it is threatening 2,000 homes.

The type of blaze that hit the area does not usually strike Southern California wild-land until September or October, after the summer has dried out hillside vegetation. But the state has seen a severe drought during the past year, with the water content of California's snowpack only 17% of normal.

That created late-summer conditions by May, and when hot winds and high temperatures arrived this week, the spring flames that firefighters routinely knock down once or twice a year quickly roared up a hillside, out of control.

On Friday, the wildfire stormed back through canyons toward inland neighbourhoods when winds reversed direction.

The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year - about 200 more than average.

PA Media

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