Seventh person dies as northern California wildfires spread
LOS ANGELES – Reuters
A seventh person died in a northern California wildfire Aug. 4, officials said, as a couple of other fast-growing wildfires in the state expanded by more than 25 percent overnight and continued to spread.
More residents were ordered to evacuate their homes as weary firefighters endured high temperatures and gusting winds.
The Carr fire, about 261 km north of Sacramento, claimed the life of a power company lineman Aug. 4, according to a CBS affiliate citing a spokesman for the PGE Corporation.
The Carr fire, one of the most destructive in California history, had already killed six people, including a great-grandmother and two children, and a firefighter and bulldozer operator.
Two other blazes collectively called the Mendocino Complex burned in Mendocino, Lake and Colusa counties, about 90 miles north of San Francisco. The River and Ranch fires had grown to cover a total of 92,600 hectares by early Aug. 4, and were considered 34-percent contained.
The scorched land figure is expected to rise when the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) issues an update on Saturday night, spokeswoman Tricia Austin said.
This year, California wildfires have burned more land earlier in the “fire season” than usual, said Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director, during a news conference.
“Fire season is really just beginning. What seems like we should be in the peak of fire season, historically, is really now the kind of conditions we’re seeing really at the beginning,” said Pimlott.
California Governor Jerry Brown, who visited some of the burned areas, said, “This is part of a trend, the new normal, that we’ve got to deal with.”
Through last week, California fires had torched about 117,300 hectares, more than double the five-year average over that same period, according to Cal Fire.
The Mendocino Complex fires cover more than two-thirds the size of sprawling Los Angeles. They have forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 residents and destroyed more than 100 structures.
More evacuations were ordered on Aug. 4 afternoon, but no estimate of people involved was released.
The Mendocino Complex fires have swelled to become larger than the deadly Carr Fire, about 100 miles to the northeast, which has killed at least six people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures.
So far this year, U.S. fires have burned 2 million hectares, much more than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.