Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Wildfires rage throughout California

WESTERN US:Firefighters from 20 states are also battling blazes in Colorado, while a wildfire near a popular fishing lake in Utah has destroyed 90 structures


A fire department truck is parked on Saturday near the charred remains of a home destroyed by a wildfire in Alpine, California.

Photo: AP/ Howard Lipin / The San Diego Union-Tribune

Firefighters on Saturday toiled in stifling heat on the lines of destructive wildfires across the US 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.

Authorities announced that mandatory evacuation orders were being greatly reduced and many of the 2,500 people who fled Friday night would be able to return home by late afternoon.

Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson thanked residents for heeding the call to evacuate, allowing firefighters to focus on fire suppression rather than rescues.

“There very likely would have been fatalities last night had those evacuations not occurred,” Peterson said.

The fire’s spread was stopped at about 40.5 hectares in a 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 had not 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 162 hectares, destroyed 18 structures and damaged eight, and a wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest was holding at 404 hectares 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 San Diego County.

Among new fires on Saturday, a blaze erupted on a steep mountain slope just above the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank and helicopters pounded it with water to try to keep it from getting out of hand.

Southern California fires began erupting on Friday as strong high pressure over the West spawned an epic heat wave that saw parts of Los Angeles broil in temperatures up to 47.2°C. There was little relief overnight.

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, 88km2 Klamathon Fire in rural Siskiyou County was just 5 percent contained.

The body of a resident was found on 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.

Elsewhere in California, the 357km2 County Fire northwest of Sacramento was more than half contained Saturday. Ten structures were counted destroyed, but damage assessments were continuing.

With fires occurring statewide, a Colorado-based Boeing 747-400 supertanker was deployed to California, but software issues needed to be resolved before the aircraft owned by Global SuperTanker Services of Colorado Springs could be activated under a call-when-needed contract.

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