image image

United States

New bushfires sweep through California, burning houses

Record high temperatures and gusty winds across the state helped spread the blazes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2018, 4:53am

Firefighters battling wildfires throughout the US West that have torched hundreds of homes hoped for some help from the weather on Saturday even as new fires swept sweltering Southern California.

A fire on the California-Oregon border that destroyed 40 buildings and claimed at least one life since Thursday remained virtually out of control, but a National Weather Service warning of extreme fire danger from heat and winds expired on Friday.

Further south, a new wind-driven fire – the “Holiday Fire” – on Friday night burned at least 20 homes and threatened hundreds more in the hills above Goleta in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.

The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power, prompting the emergency declaration which frees additional funds for the firefighting effort.

Some 350 firefighters took advantage of a period of light winds early on Saturday to contain as much as possible of the blaze, which has burned through 50-80 acres (20-32 hectares), fire officials said.

One killed and hundreds evacuated as new wildfire breaks out in California

“It was a small fire but it had a powerful punch to it,” Santa County Fire spokesman Mike Eliason said. “We’re going to hit it hard today.”

Authorities said the blaze started with a house fire and gusty winds reportedly spread the flames.

 The area is north of where the Thomas Fire raged last December. That blaze destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

East of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities ordered the evacuation of Forest Falls, which has about 700 homes, as a quick-moving wildfire grew to 3.8 sq km(about 1.5 square miles).

State of emergency declared as northern California wildfire

In San Diego County, several fires erupted including one that burned at least five homes and perhaps many more in Alpine, in foothills not far from San Diego. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the county.

At a Red Cross shelter, Ben Stanfill told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he and other relatives helped evacuate his mother’s house, even though it wasn’t in a mandatory evacuation area.

“We just grabbed everything you can’t replace or re-buy,” Stanfill said. “My grandma’s photographs, the cat, my sister’s Mickey Mouse teddy bear she’s had since she was little.”

The fire was only 5 per cent contained on Friday night, but crews had virtually stopped its growth and were focusing on knocking down hotspots that continued to threaten houses and mobile homes, state fire officials said.

Another fire on the Camp Pendleton Marine base prompted the evacuation of 750 homes.

The new blazes came as Southern California saw many areas top 37 degrees Celsius on Friday. The weather service forecast more hot weather for much of the area on Saturday.

In the north, the fire in Siskyou County on the Oregon border had virtually emptied the tiny communities of Hilt and Hornbrook. Fire officials called for the immediate evacuation of some Oregon areas near the community of Colestin.

“We know we’ve lost homes and lots of structures, including livestock and horses as well,” said Ray Haupt, chairman of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.

A body was found on Friday morning in the charred ruins of a Hornbrook home, but authorities were struggling to identify it.

“We don’t even have an address because of the devastation around the area,” Siskyou County sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeremiah LaRue told the San Francisco Chronicle.