Thousands Forced To Evacuate Following Twin Wildfires

Aug 05, 2018, 01:46
Thousands Forced To Evacuate Following Twin Wildfires

A blackened landscape is shown from wildfire damage near Keswick, California. "I see there's a few statuaries in the backyard that maybe we can save".

Fueled by triple-digit temperatures, the blazes have put California on track for its most destructive fire year since 2008, in terms of area burned, said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean. The fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and damaged almost 200 others.

The combined fires have prompted about 15,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Over 4,300 personnel assigned to the blaze have carved containment lines around 37 percent of the perimeter of the blaze. Firefighters were having some success keeping flames away from heavily populated areas, and officials began allowing some residents to return to their neighborhoods.

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday night, saying a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region could bring wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour that could turn small fires or sparks into racing walls of flame.

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Gov. Jerry Brown was scheduled to visit the fire area in Shasta County on Saturday.

The blaze has killed two firefighters.

Following years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, huge tracts of forests, chaparral and grasslands have become tinder that allows even a small spark to explode into a devouring blaze, authorities said.

Both fires started in Mendocino County but burned into Lake County.

"With that being said, there's a high likelihood that the fire's going to back down into several communities today, and we're preparing for structure defense in Nice, Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks with engines in backyards", Blankenheim continued, explaining that Cal Fire was working with the Lake County Sheriff's Office overnight Friday to evacuate the affected residents.

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Strong gusts began kicking up again on Wednesday night across upper ridge lines of the fire's mountainous western flank, where the blaze, sparked by a vehicle malfunction on July 23, was still burning largely unchecked.

To the southwest of Redding, new evacuations were ordered late Thursday at the Mendocino Complex, where twin fires have ravaged a combined 240 square miles (621 square kilometers), destroyed 41 residences and threatened 9,200 homes. Most are in other western states but wildfires have also struck Texas and Florida, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north grew to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometers).

Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.

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