Fire­fight­ers bat­tle blazes across Cal­i­for­nia

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SARA PUIG

Thou­sands of fire­fight­ers bat­tled Mon­day to con­tain wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia that have forced the evac­u­a­tion of thou­sands of homes and burned more than 50,000 hectares of land.

They man­aged to bring num­ber of fires down from 21 to 18, but a new fire erupted in Ven­tura County Sun­day and was quickly dubbed the Chorro fire.

The big­gest fire, the Rocky Fire, was sweep­ing through Co­lusa, Lake and Yolo coun­ties north of Sacra­mento, the state cap­i­tal.

More than 13,000 peo­ple have been forced to flee homes threat­ened by Rocky, CALFIRE spokes­woman Alisha Her­ring said.

Only 12 per­cent un­der con­trol, Rocky has burned through more than 24,200 hectares, de­stroy­ing 50 struc­tures, about half of them homes, and threat­ened 6,000 more, she said.

“It’s the Rocky Fire that con­tin­ues to re­ally be a fast-mov­ing fire that def­i­nitely con­tinue toss chal­lenge us to­day,” CALFIRE spokesman Daniel Ber­lant said.

He said the fire rav­aged through the forests at break-neck speed, with fire­fight­ers strug­gling to keep apace.

“Over the week­end, (8,000 hectares) burned in just about a five­hour pe­riod. That’s un­prece­dented his­tor­i­cal rate of spread,” he said.

The newly sparked Churro Fire was burn­ing across 200 hectares and was 15 per­cent con­tained, CALFIRE re­ported Mon­day.

‘Tin­der dry’

A to­tal of about 49,000 hectares of land have burned so far, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pro­vided by the state.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown’s of­fice said that some 9,600 peo­ple were bat­tling the fires early Sun­day.

Weather in the drought-stricken state was the main cul­prit, with sev­eral thou­sand dry light­ning strikes re­ported over the week­end.

“The drought is play­ing a huge role. With four years of dry con­di­tions, our veg­e­ta­tion, the trees, the brush, are tin­der dry,” Ber­lant said.

Cal­i­for­nia is in the throes of a record- break­ing drought, with much of the state com­pletely parched.

The north­ern part of the state was the worst-hit, where forests were com­pletely en­gulfed by the in­fer­nos, and sev­eral stretches of high­way were forced closed.

In ar­eas where fires had been put out, charred cars were all that was left be­hind on some roads, and trees were left smol­der­ing on the black­ened earth.

But Ber­lant said fire­fight­ers were mak­ing head­way on some fronts, with at least three fires ex- tin­guished since the week­end and other al­most un­der con­trol.

“We are mak­ing progress on sev­eral fronts. In fact sev­eral of the fires are near con­tain­ment or al­most com­pletely con­tained,” he said on CNN.

But, he warned there is no sign the dry, hot and windy con­di­tions will im­prove, and said the com­ing months could see more fires.

“The dry con­di­tions un­for­tu­nately will not get any bet­ter. We have sev­eral more months of fire sea­son ahead un­til we get a bit of rain.”

The U.S. Na­tional Weather Ser­vice is­sued a red flag warn­ing for north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, cau­tion­ing that “ex­treme fire con­di­tions are oc­cur­ring or im­mi­nent.”

A state of emer­gency was is­sued Fri­day, and the Cal­i­for­nia Na­tional Guard has been called in, un­der­lin­ing the scale of the threat fac­ing the western state.

A fire­fighter from South Dakota, Dave Ruhl, 38, was killed Thurs­day while fight­ing the Frog Fire in the Modoc Na­tional For­est out­side Al­turas.

AP

Fire­fight­ers bat­tle a fire burn­ing to the north of U.S. High­way 20 east of Spring Val­ley in Lake County, Cal­i­for­nia, Mon­day, Aug. 3.

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