Thousands flee California wildfires

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2017 10:40 AM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 7,000 firefighters battled a dozen wildfires in California on Tuesday as thousands of people fled their homes and hot, dry weather allowed fires to spread easily, officials said.

The biggest evacuation was in Northern California's Butte County due to the so-called Wall Fire, which began on Friday and has displaced about 4,000 people, officials said.

Heather Williams, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that so far this year about 68,000 acres (27,518 hectares) have burned in the state, more than double the total area that had been charred by the same time last year.

"We’re seeing more intense fires,” Williams said by telephone. "We foresee that the summer is going to be quite busy for us."

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Amy Head said in a video statement on Monday that heat and dryness were expected through the week.

Fires in the Canadian province of British Columbia have forced 14,000 people from their homes and disrupted logging and mining operations.

The California wildfires were among more than 50 uncontained fires in western states, according to the National Weather Service.

The Wall Fire burning north of Bangor, more than 100 miles (161 km) northeast of San Francisco, has charred about 5,800 acres (2,347 hectares) and destroyed at least 36 houses, officials said. The fire is 45 percent contained, up from 35 percent on Monday.

In Santa Barbara County along California's central coast, about 200 people were under evacuation orders because of the so-called Alamo Fire, named after a creek near where it started on Thursday, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

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The blaze, which has spread to nearly 29,000 acres (11,736 hectares), is 45 percent contained, up from 20 percent on Monday evening.

The so-called Farad Fire on the border between California and Nevada closed a 20-mile (32-km) stretch of Interstate 80 on Tuesday, said Deanna Shoopman, a spokeswoman for California Department of Transportation.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Toni Reinhold)