Evacuations ordered as northern California wildfire expands in extreme heat

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 11, 2015 1:44 AM

(Reuters) - A wildfire burning in parched northern California brushland expanded rapidly on Thursday as the area sweltered under triple digit temperatures, forcing the evacuation of several communities, state fire officials said.

The so-called Butte Fire, which erupted on Wednesday east of the city of Jackson, about an hour's drive southeast of the state capital, Sacramento, grew to 14,700 acres (5,949 hectares)by Thursday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

The blaze was 10 percent contained.

Eight structures and outbuildings have been destroyed and another 1,500 structures were threatened, Cal Fire said.

Several rural communities were under evacuation orders, though it was not immediately clear how many people were forced to flee their homes.

The blaze is the latest in a string of large and destructive wildfires that have ripped through drought-stricken brush and forest in the U.S. West Coast over the summer.

Dozens of wildfires or clusters of fires were currently burning in six Western states - California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.

The Butte fire showed "rapid, uncontrolled fire growth" on Thursday, Cal Fire said, with containment efforts slowed by extreme heat, low humidity and the difficult of stemming the blaze in rocky, rugged terrain.

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More evacuations were anticipated, the agency said.

Meanwhile, the Rough fire, the largest active fire in California, exploded to more than 110,000 acres on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of staff and visitors from a large swath of Kings Canyon National Park east of Fresno, fire officials said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Himani Sarkar)