Wind drives wildfires in Cal­i­for­nia, de­stroy­ing homes

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY JOHN ANTCZAK As­so­ci­ated Press

Fire­fight­ers toiled in sti­fling heat Satur­day on the lines of de­struc­tive wildfires across the U.S. West, mak­ing progress against some blazes while strug­gling to tame oth­ers that have forced evac­u­a­tions of hun­dreds of homes.

In heat-stricken South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, pow­er­ful winds that sent an overnight in­ferno hop­scotch­ing through the Santa Bar­bara County com­mu­nity of Go­leta van­ished in the morn­ing, al­low­ing fire­fight­ers to ex­tin­guish smol­der­ing ru­ins of an es­ti­mated 20 struc­tures, in­clud­ing homes.

“It’s re­ally given us a good op­por­tu­nity to get in there and get some work done,” said county fire Capt. Dave Zani­boni.

The fire’s spread was stopped at about 100 acres or less and teams were work­ing on an ac­cu­rate tally of da­m­age in the neigh­bor­hood, where some houses were in ru­ins while homes next door were in­tact.

Eric Durtschi stood out­side his de­stroyed house, where a burned-out car stood in the drive­way and kids’ bi­cy­cles were strewn about.

Durtschi, his wife and six chil­dren had left Utah and moved in just a few weeks ago. He said he hadn’t yet told his two old­est chil­dren their home was gone.

A neigh­bor’s home across the street was spared. The man had stayed through the night spray­ing down other peo­ple’s houses.

Else­where in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, fire­fight­ers in­creased con­tain­ment of a cen­tral San Diego County fire that rapidly spread over 400 acres, de­stroyed 18 struc­tures and dam­aged eight, and a wild­fire in the San Bernardino Na­tional For­est was hold­ing at 1.5 square miles and forced evac­u­a­tion of about 700 homes in the moun­tain com­mu­nity of For­est Falls.

Fires also burned on the Ma­rine Corps’ sprawl­ing Camp Pendle­ton base in north­ern San Diego County.

The South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fires erupted Fri­day as strong high pres­sure over the West spawned an epic heat wave that saw parts of Los An­ge­les broil in tem­per­a­tures up to 117 de­grees. There was lit­tle re­lief overnight.

“Tem­per­a­tures at 8 a.m. were ridicu­lously over 100 de­grees” in foothills near For­est Falls and many in­land val­leys, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said.

Fore­cast­ers said the re­gion’s siege of heat would grad­u­ally ease through the week­end, but the un­sta­ble air mass un­leashed down­pours that trig­gered flash-flood warn­ings for the moun­tains north­east of Los An­ge­les.

Fur­ther up north and just south of the Cal­i­for­nia-Ore­gon bor­der, the 34-square-mile Kla­mathon Fire in ru­ral Siskiyou County was just 5 per­cent con­tained. The body of a res­i­dent was found Fri­day in the ru­ins of a home, among 15 de­stroyed struc­tures tal­lied so far.

Au­thor­i­ties de­scribed “ex­treme fire be­hav­ior with move­ment in mul­ti­ple direc­tions,” with threats to the Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties of Horn­brook and Hilt as well as Colestin, Ore­gon. Ray Haupt, chair­man of the county Board of Su­per­vi­sors, said losses in­cluded homes and live­stock.

Else­where in Cal­i­for­nia, the 138-square-mile County Fire north­west of Sacra- mento was nearly 50 per­cent con­tained. Ten struc­tures were counted de­stroyed but da­m­age as­sess­ments were con­tin­u­ing.

In Utah, au­thor­i­ties al­lowed the re­turn of some res­i­dents who fled a wild­fire near a pop­u­lar fish­ing lake 80 miles south­east of Salt Lake City. The blaze has burned about 75 square miles and de­stroyed 90 struc­tures.

In Colorado, fire­fight­ers took ad­van­tage of oc­ca­sional rain­storms to ex­tend their con­tain­ment lines at sev­eral large wildfires.

In the south, crews Satur­day con­tained about 45 per­cent of a 167-squaremile fire that has de­stroyed more than 130 homes, while in Rocky Moun­tain ski coun­try fire­fight­ers from 20 states were bat­tling an 8-square-mile wild­fire above the Roar­ing Fork Val­ley. Com­man­ders said they hoped for onethird con­tain­ment by late Sun­day.

NOAH BERGER AP

The sun rises Satur­day be­hind a home lev­eled by the Hol­i­day fire in Go­leta, Calif. Evac­u­a­tions were or­dered as the fire edged into res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

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