Hot weather fuels California fires
Hot weather and swirling winds Wednesday fanned flames of a huge fire close to the tourist town of Big Sur, leading authorities to order the evacuation of one of the most scenic areas on the state's Pacific coastline. ( dpa )
The Basin Complex fire jumped a fire-line that firefighters had hoped would protect the town, and led to the closure of a 40 kilometer stretch of the Pacific Coast highway.
"The fire is just a big raging animal right now," said Darby Marshall, spokesman for the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services.
The blaze has burnt over 212 square kilometers and burnt 16 homes since it was started by lightning on June 21. It is currently only about 3 percent contained as nearly 1,400 firefighters work to contain the blaze.
The fire is just one of more than 1,400 sparked by freak lightening storms on June 20 and 21. On Tuesday California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called up more National Guard troops to help fight the blazes, in addition to the National Guard helicopters that have already been dropping fire retardant on the flames since Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency last week.
The fires have burned more than 1,700 square kilometers. Approximately 18,900 personnel were fighting the flames, backed by 1,460 fire trucks and more than 100 aircraft dropping water.
Most of the fires are in remote regions and are being left to burn, as fire managers focus their resources on areas close to human habitation.
The fires are causing huge concern, coming early in the season due to low rainfall over the winter and spring, which left brush tinder dry at least two months ahead of schedule.
California's worst fire months are usually September and October, when hot, dry inland winds blow across the south of the state. Last year, more than 2,000 homes were destroyed by the late summer fires, causing more than 3 billion dollars in damage.
US President George W Bush declared a federal state of emergency over the weekend, ordering federal authorities including the US Marines and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help California's state effort. California plans to ask the federal government to help defray the cost of fighting the fires.
Schwarzenegger called on people to refrain from buying fireworks for Friday's traditional Fourth of July celebrations of US Independence Day, due to the danger of starting more blazes.