Crews gain ground on wild­fires

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

LAKE ELSI­NORE: Fire­fight­ers made sig­nif­i­cant progress try­ing to tamp down a wild­fire that threat­ened homes and has been rag­ing for days south of Los An­ge­les, of­fi­cials said on Sat­ur­day.

Air­craft have been mak­ing flight af­ter flight, dump­ing wa­ter and bright pink re­tar­dant to pro­tect Lake Elsi­nore and other foothill com­mu­ni­ties as the fire sweeps through the dense, bone-dry brush of the Cleve­land Na­tional For­est.

The Holy Fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it be­gan on Aug 6 — grew to nearly 85 square kilo­me­tres by Sat­ur­day morn­ing. But fire­fight­ers also made progress, with con­tain­ment ris­ing from 10% to 29%.

High tem­per­a­tures and dry grass and brush have made it dif­fi­cult for fire­fight­ers to get a han­dle on the blaze. Some hill­sides were be­ing al­lowed to burn un­der the watch­ful eyes of fire­fight­ers as a way to re­duce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump road­ways into com­mu­ni­ties if winds pick up again.

Al­though the fire burned a dozen for­est cab­ins early on, only one home was lost on Thurs­day as fire crews man­aged to fend off flames that stalked down­hill and came right up to yards.

On Sat­ur­day, of­fi­cials al­lowed some res­i­dents to re­turn to their homes in Lake Elsi­nore, but oth­ers still re­mained un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

The man ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately start­ing the fire ap­peared in court on Fri­day, but his ar­raign­ment was post­poned.

For­rest Clark, 51, made sev­eral out­bursts, claim­ing his life was be­ing threat­ened and say­ing the ar­son charge against him was a lie. A court com­mis­sioner or­dered his bail to re­main at US$1 mil­lion (33 mil­lion baht).

The Holy Fire was one of nearly 20 blazes across Cal­i­for­nia, which is see­ing ear­lier, longer and more de­struc­tive wild­fire sea­sons be­cause of drought, warmer weather at­trib­uted to cli­mate change and home con­struc­tion deeper into forests.

A fire that broke out near the com­mu­ni­ties of Fairfield and Va­cav­ille had de­stroyed a home and two other struc­tures, ac­cord­ing to the Va­cav­ille Fire Depart­ment. A firefighter suf­fered a mi­nor in­jury bat­tling the blaze, which grew to about 6.9 square kilo­me­tres and was 70% con­tained by Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, of­fi­cials said.

The largest fire ever recorded in Cal­i­for­nia — the Men­do­cino Com­plex — is burn­ing north of Sacramento and has de­stroyed 119 homes but none in re­cent days. The fire had reached 1,315 square kilo­me­tres and was 67% con­tained by Sat­ur­day.

The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed eight peo­ple and burned more than 1,000 homes was 55% con­tained.

Else­where in the West, a firefighter was in­jured on Sat­ur­day and res­i­dents in parts of two Wash­ing­ton state cities were told to evac­u­ate due to a grow­ing wild­fire.

Au­thor­i­ties said that the Grass Val­ley fire started on Sat­ur­day morn­ing and windy con­di­tions helped it grow to 3.8 square kilo­me­tres.

Grant County Sher­iff’s Of­fice spokesman Kyle Fore­man told the Spokesman Re­view that the in­jured firefighter was flown to Seat­tle’s Har­borview Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

AP

King Bass, 6, left, sits and watches the Holy Fire burn from on top of his par­ents’ car as his sis­ter Princess, 5, rests her head on his shoul­der in Lake Elsi­nore.

EPA-EFE

Fire­fight­ers watch the flames ap­proach while bat­tling the ‘Holy’ wild­fire in Corona, Cal­i­for­nia.

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