Monday 24 June 2019

More than 1,000 homes torched in California wildfires

The state has already spent more than a quarter of its annual fire budget.

Flames consume a home as the River Fire tears through Lakeport, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames consume a home as the River Fire tears through Lakeport, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

By Janie Har and Brian Skoloff, Associated Press

A massive wildfire in northern California has torched more than 1,000 homes in and around the city of Redding, authorities said on Wednesday.

Some evacuees were allowed to return home while new blazes exploded in what has become an endless summer of flame in the Golden State.

“Whatever resources are needed, we’re putting them there,” Governor Jerry Brown said at a news conferenvcce. “We’re being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We’re in uncharted territory.”

Just a month into the budget year, the state has already spent more than a quarter of its annual fire budget – at least 125 million dollars (£95 million) – California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) spokesman Mike Mohler said.

A firefighter runs while trying to save a home (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

The fire service said another 488 buildings, including barns and warehouses, have also been destroyed by the fire, which is now the sixth most destructive in California history.

The 121,000-acre Redding-area blaze, which started on July 23, forced 38,000 people from their homes and killed six. It has scorched 189 square miles and is 35% contained.

At least three new fires erupted on Wednesday in the Sierra Nevada region, including a blaze in Placer County.

North of San Francisco, a fire threatened homes in an old ranching and farming area near Covelo. About 60 homes were evacuated as the blaze erupted late on Tuesday and winds whipped flames through brush, grass, oak, pine and fir near the Mendocino National Forest, officials said.

A fire crew keeps an eye on an advancing wildfire (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

To the east, another blaze on Tuesday night raged through grassy cattle lands near Yuba City. The new fires erupted without warning and spread with shocking speed through forest and brush that have literally become tinder, said Scott McLean of CalFire.

“It just goes on and on,” he said.

“We had this rain at the beginning of the year and all that did was promote the growing of grass and brush. It’s a Catch-22. It’s growing more product to catch on fire.”

The new fire near Covelo was only about 40 miles north of where twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties have burned an area three times the size of San Francisco, destroyed 14 homes and threatened 12,000 more.

An air tanker drops retardant on the River Fire burning near Lakeport, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Lake County seat of Lakeport remained under evacuation orders and was a virtual ghost town, although people were allowed back home in several smaller communities as firefighters shored up containment lines.

In Shasta County’s so-called Carr Fire, authorities said all those reported missing had been located. A relative identified the latest known fatal victim as Daniel Bush, 62.

National Park Service officials said on Tuesday that the scenic Yosemite Valley and other areas would be closed at least until Sunday due to heavy smoke from the so-called Ferguson Fire. The closure began on July 25.

It is the longest closure at Yosemite since 1997, when floods closed the park for more than two months.

Press Association

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