USA TODAY US Edition
‘A BATTLE WITH NATURE’: 23,000 FLEE FIRES IN CALIF.
Two blazes are biggest in the state’s history
A dozen wildfires burning across a wide swath of droughtstricken California — including two of the biggest wildfires in the state’s history — are consuming hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee.
One person was reported dead Monday, and an unspecified number of others are “unaccounted for,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services.
By Monday, two huge fires straddling Sacramento, the state capital, had spread across multiple counties and destroyed more than 500 homes, forcing 23,000 people to flee. “These communities still are in an active firefight,” Ghilarducci said.
State officials said more than 11,000 firefighters battled blazes statewide.
California Gov. Jerry Brown said the fierce nature of the fires showed “we are really in a battle with nature, that nature is more powerful than we are.”
By Monday, the Butte Fire, which started last week in Amador County, southeast of Sacramento, had grown to more than 71,000 acres, spreading across two counties, State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said. It was 30% contained.
The Valley Fire, northwest of Sacramento, was only 5% contained. At 61,000 acres, it was “one of the most destructive fires already this year,” he said.
The Valley Fire started Saturday, and by Monday, it was burning in three counties, including Napa and Sonoma, the heart of California wine country. It had destroyed as many as 1,000 structures, Berlant said.
A third fire, known as the Rough Fire, which has been burning for more than a month, had burned 138,000 acres but was 40% contained, he said.
Many of the 400 or more homes lost in the Valley Fire are in the Middletown area, where Ross Hardester owns Hardester’s Market.
The store, aided by a generator provided by the local power company, remains open to serve firefighters and locals riding out the disaster.
“You see it in their eyes,” Hardester told USA TODAY. “Some of them have lost their homes. Some, their homes were saved. But everyone is heartbroken.”
Four firefighters have been injured battling the blaze.
Berlant said cooler temperatures in Lake County on Tuesday, and possibly even some predicted rainfall, could produce “better conditions for us to be able to fight a fire.”