Fire destroys 40 homes in northern California
In the worst damage yet of California's harrowing fire season, a wildfire destroyed 40 homes in the town of Concow, some 140 kilometres north of Sacramento.
The incident came as a US senator from California appealed for almost 1 billion dollars in federal aid to help the state thin the forests and brush that fuel the states fires every summer, the dpa reported.
The latest destruction occurred after winds blew embers from the rapidly growing Camp fire across a fire line Tuesday evening and ignited the homes in the rural town. Ten other buildings were also destroyed in the inferno, which was pronounced 40 per cent contained Wednesday morning.
Some 14,000 residents of northern Butte County were forced to evacuate as firefighters battled 40-degree temperatures, low humidity and strong winds in a heatwave predicted to continue until the end of the week.
"There's just no predicting how things will go," said Wes Cochran, a spokesman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze was also threatening the town of Paradise, a community that has barely had time to recover from a blaze a few weeks ago that destroyed dozens of homes. Precautionary evacuations were underway for most of the east side of Paradise.
Fire officials had expected flames would go south along the Feather River canyon. Instead, the fire shifted up the canyon, sweeping through the Concow and Camelot areas.
"Just a small wind shift makes a drastic change in the direction of the fire and where we're going," Cochran said.
In all, 3,900 structures were threatened - some presumably already destroyed - by the Butte fire complex. More than 2,440 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, many of them on 24-hour shifts.
Firefighters were faring better in two other major blazes.
In Goleta, north-east of Santa Barbara, the 4,000-hectare Gap fire was declared 50-per-cent contained, while progress was also made on the Basin Complex fire threatening the tourist town of Big Sur. The fire was 27-per-cent contained Wednesday and appeared to be moving away from the scenic coastal town.
The threat to California prompted US Senator Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday to seek 910 million dollars in emergency federal money for fire suppression, hazardous fuels reduction and rehabilitation projects.
"The situation in California is explosive," Feinstein wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Excessive-heat warnings have been issued, more dry-lightning strikes are expected, our resources are stretched to the breaking point, and the state remains tinder-dry."
In all, 323 fires are still burning across the state, with emergencies declared in 11 counties.
According to state firefighting authority Cal Fire, more than 270,000 hectares have burnt since a freak barrage of lightning storms ignited more than 1,400 fires on June 20-21. Some 18,500 firefighters are battling the blazes, aided by more than 100 water-dropping aircraft and 1,500 fire engines.