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California

Wildfires across California destroy more than two dozen homes

A car and house near Oroville, Calif., are engulfed in flames by the Wall fire on Saturday.
A car and house are engulfed in flames as the “Wall Fire” burns through a residential area in Oroville, California on July 8, 2017. The first major wildfires after the end of California’s five-year drought raged across the state on July 8, as it was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

Two major wildfires burning on California’s Central Coast grew by thousands of acres overnight, while firefighters made progress on a third blaze that threatened thousands of structures near Lake Oroville on Monday.

Firefighters increased containment around a fast-moving wildfire in Butte County, just south of the lake. The blaze prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency after flames destroyed 17 structures and threatened 5,400 more on Sunday.

On the Central Coast, two blazes burning in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have forced nearly 8,000 people to flee as flames gutted more than two dozen structures. Both fires continued to spread overnight, even as helicopters worked overtime making water drops at night, said Andrew Madsen, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

After a weekend of blistering heat, firefighters will face additional weather-related complications, according to the National Weather Service.

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As humidity hovers between 10% and 20%, northerly wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph will sweep across the Santa Barbara County mountains and along the southern coast, “leading to several hours of critical fire weather conditions,” the weather service said.

Alamo fire

The massive Alamo fire, which started Thursday off Highway 166 near Twitchell Reservoir in San Luis Obispo County, swelled more than 5,000 acres overnight, and has now burned 28,926 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Flames spread into northern Santa Barbara County and forced 200 people in a remote area east of Santa Maria to evacuate.

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The blaze, which is 15% contained, is threatening 133 structures and has destroyed one home, Cal Fire said.

More than 1,600 firefighters were tackling flames burning in steep terrain loaded with chaparral and “light and flashy” grass, Cal Fire spokeswoman Toni Davis said.

A marine layer and cooler temperatures on Monday will allow firefighters to dig a “sturdy containment line,” 300 feet from the fire’s edge, she said.

“We are making really good progress with what we got, but we are being cognizant of what could happen,” she said.

Whittier fire

Burning north of Goleta, the Whittier fire, which is only 5% contained, has destroyed at least 20 homes on both sides of Highway 154.

The 10,823-acre blaze started about 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Camp Whittier near Lake Cachuma in Los Padres National Forest and prompted more than 3,500 people to leave the area.

As flames broke out, the blaze trapped some 80 campers at the Circle V Ranch Camp, fire officials said. They were later rescued by a group of U.S. Forest Service firefighters.

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The blaze grew more than 3,000 acres overnight and moved into the Santa Ynez Mountain ridge, said Madsen, the forest service spokesman.

Flames were smoldering in areas that have not been scorched since the 1955 Refugio fire, which burned for 10 days and charred 77,000 acres, he said.

The steep, rugged canyons are covered in decades-old chaparral, Madsen said.

On Sunday, firefighters were aided by slightly lower temperatures and winds blowing in from the Pacific that halted the fire from spreading downhill toward Goleta.

Wall fire

More than 1,500 firefighters from across Northern California worked to contain the destructive Wall fire near Oroville on Monday.

With temperatures hovering at 88 degrees in Oroville, crews were pushing through the heat and plowing through rugged terrain to set a line around the fire, said Rich Brocchini, a Cal Fire spokesman.

The blaze, which is 35% contained, tore through 5,600 acres and destroyed more than a dozen structures. An additional five structures were damaged. About 4,000 people have evacuated their homes.

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A combination of light grass, manzanita and oak trees has fueled the explosive fire, which started about 2:50 p.m. Friday off Chinese Wall Road, north of Bangor, Calif., Brocchini said.

Firefighters were working on four major tasks Monday – all involved keeping the fire away from Oroville, Lake Oroville and majors roads, he said.

On Sunday night, Cal Fire said four people were injured in the fire. But on Monday, that number was revised to zero injuries, Brocchini said.


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