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California wildfires: Thousands evacuated, fires explode in size

Thousands of residents who live near the American River in the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California remained evacuated Wednesday as a fast-moving wildfire exploded by 6,000 acres overnight.

The King fire continues to threaten thousands of homes and structures as winds drive it east, west and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs.

Sustained heat and wind have steered the flames toward parched vegetation that has been left tinder-dry by California’s prolonged drought, creating towering smoke plumes that have kept firefighters from clearly seeing the fire’s behavior, U.S Forest Service officials said.

The fire, which erupted Saturday evening, has burned 18,544 acres and is only 5% contained.

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So far, no structures have been reported damaged or destroyed, but as the fire fans out, 1,632 homes and an additional 816 structures are being threatened, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents were being advised to seek shelter at Camino Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3520 Carson Road, in Camino.

The fire has become one of the largest and most unruly of 11 major wildfires burning across California, mainly in the central and northern parts of the state.

Much smaller fires, however, have proved to be extremely destructive.

At just 375 acres, the Boles fire has devastated the logging town of Weed, just west of Mt. Shasta, damaging or destroying more than 150 structures that included vital community institutions such as churches, a library and the town’s sawmill.

“It looks like a bomb went off,” said resident Angel Fisher, 41.

The fire, first reported Monday afternoon, was just 25% contained by Wednesday. Three injuries have been reported, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported.

At about the same size, the Courtney fire in Madera County has also delivered a heavy blow to the community of Oakhurst: More than 60 structures, most of them homes, have been lost, Cal Fire officials said. That fire has burned 320 acres and is 60% contained.

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Meanwhile, the largest wildfire in the state -- the Happy Camp Complex -- has burned 114,664 acres in Klamath National Forest and is 60% contained, according to the Forest Service. The complex is made up of 15 fires, which were initially sparked by lightning on Aug. 12.

Twitter: @JasonBretWells


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