Saturday 21 April 2018

Wildfires force children to flee from California summer camp

A plane drops retardant while fighting a wildfire near Oroville, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A plane drops retardant while fighting a wildfire near Oroville, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Wildfires have swept across wide areas of the western US and Canada, destroying homes, forcing thousands to flee and temporarily trapping children and staff at a California camp ground.

In northern California, a wildfire swept through grassy foothills in the Sierra Nevada and destroyed at least 10 structures and threatened more than 750 homes.

The blaze about 60 miles north of Sacramento grew rapidly to more than seven square miles and was nearly 20% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"It made a huge run last night," fire spokeswoman Mary Ann Aldrich said. More homes were destroyed but fire officials have not had a chance to assess the damage. Instead, they were focused on protecting structures while battling the fire in hot, sometimes windy conditions.

"It's far from out, we're going to be here for several days if not more," Ms Aldrich said.

The area burning was about 10 miles south of Oroville, where spillways in the nation's tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200,000 residents downstream.

Authorities said the fire sent hundreds of people fleeing from their homes.

In s outhern California, residents and campers were sent scrambling as two fires exploded in size at separate ends of Santa Barbara County.

Crews were getting a break from slightly cooler temperatures and diminishing winds on Sunday as they battled the pair of blazes that destroyed structures and closed a highway.

One of the fires grew to 12 square miles, traversing a mountain range and heading south towards coastal Goleta.

"The plan is to hit it with air tankers to keep it from moving to the south and to the east," said county fire Captain Dave Zaniboni. "There's less heat and less wind, which makes things a little easier."

There was minimal containment and flames shut down State Route 154, which is expected to remain closed for days. At least 20 structures burned.

About 90 children and 50 counsellors were stuck on Saturday at the Circle V Ranch and had to take shelter until they could be safely evacuated.

Crews were also using an air attack against another blaze about 50 miles north that exploded in size to 37.5 square miles. About 200 rural homes east of Santa Maria were evacuated after the fire broke out on Saturday and was fed by dry gusts.

In Colorado, firefighters built containment lines around about half the wildfire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people near Breckenridge. The fire has not spread since it broke out on Wednesday and was still less than a square mile on Sunday.

In rural Arizona, fire officials said three homes were among 10 buildings that were burned. The wildfire there has led to the evacuation of the entire town of Dudleyville, about 100 miles south east of Phoenix.

A wildfire burning near Summer Lake in south-central Oregon has destroyed a hunting cabin and an outbuilding.

In Nevada, fire officials ordered evacuations for a wildfire near the area where another blaze has already burned for days.

In Canada, firefighters were contending with more than 200 wildfires burning in British Columbia that had destroyed dozens of buildings, including several homes and two airport hangars.

The three biggest fires, which ranged in size from five to eight square miles, had forced thousands of people to flee.


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