California fires expand, over 175,000 people evacuated

By Stephen Lam FELTON, Calif.

Reuters August 22, 2020 00:11:50 IST
California fires expand, over 175,000 people evacuated

California fires expand over 175000 people evacuated

By Stephen Lam

FELTON, Calif. (Reuters) - California's lightning-sparked wildfires broadened into some of the largest in state history on Friday, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

At least six people have died, 43 fire fighters and civilians injured and over 500 homes and other structures destroyed as fires burn across an area twice the size of sprawling Los Angeles.

With firefighting forces depleted from over 370 fires in the past five days, ground crews worked 72-hour shifts to save communities where over 175,000 people face mandatory evacuation.

The state has been hit by its worst dry-lightning storms in nearly two decades, over 11,000 strikes sending fire racing through grassland and forest parched by record breaking heat.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Governor Gavin Newsom told the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night.

Most of the fires are in the San Francisco Bay Area with a complex of fires east of Palo Alto and another in wine country south of Sacramento now the seventh and tenth largest in state history, respectively, according to wildfire authority Cal Fire.

"We're still understaffed for a fire of this size," said Daniel Potter, a CalFire spokesman on another blaze north of Santa Cruz which has forced 64,000 people to evacuate from vulnerable towns where houses are built amongst the trees.

One of those was Felton, a community of 4,000, where some stayed behind to defend homes after fire torched houses and California's oldest state park to the north, a Reuters photographer said.

Around 1,000 firefighters in the area fought multiple fires blown in shifting directions by erratic winds as propane tanks and ammunition stores exploded in homes, he said.

In the North Bay Area, four civilians died in a cluster of fires that have destroyed over 480 homes and structures in wine counties such as Napa, Solano and Sonoma, Cal Fire reported.

A utility crewman died on Wednesday while on duty helping clear electrical hazards for first-responders at the same fire, dubbed the LNU Complex. Earlier that day, the pilot of a firefighting helicopter contracted by the state was killed in a crash in Fresno County.

(Reporting by Stephen Lam in Boulder Creek, Calif.; Writing and additional reporting by Andrew Hay and Steve Gorman; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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