Wildfires blacken California's golden hills, destroy homes and force hundreds of evacuations



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Crews are battling several tough wildfires across Northern and Central California. Hundreds of evacuations have been ordered and dozens of structures are threatened. (July 30)

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LOWER LAKE, California — A series of wildfires blackened the golden hills of California on Friday, egged on by bone-dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds.

A handful of homes have been consumed by the flames and hundreds of people chased from their houses as thousands of firefighters work to corral the blazes.

Eighteen large fires are burning, mostly in the scorched northern half of the state, and California's incessant drought is making matters worse.

"They only need a little wind to allow them to burn at an explosive rate," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.

Crews hope cooler weather this weekend will help them get control of the flames.

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BURNING HILLS

A fast-spreading wildfire north of San Francisco has torched a third home and is threatening more than 450 structures.

At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. It has charred 23 square miles near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, a popular summer recreation spot.

It was only 5 percent contained Friday.

Neickol Cook lives at least 10 miles from the fire, but ash rained down at her Clear Lake home.

"During the nighttime, the sky is beaming red — it's something," she said. "My plants are covered in ash in my yard."

With the fire's reflection shining red through her window, she is prepared to evacuate.

"I like to sleep with a flashlight under my pillow and my shoes at the base of my bed to be prepared," she said. "The community is coming together and looking at what's important. We should be ready for disaster."


HOMES DESTROYED

A separate fire near the small town of Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta burned six or seven mobile homes Thursday evening before firefighters got it under control, said Steve Cantelme, chief of the Sacramento office of Emergency Services.

Cantelme said the fire was out Thursday night but crews remained on the scene raking through debris to ensure that no hot embers could reignite it.

Video from KCRA-TV in Sacramento showed mobile homes engulfed in wind-whipped flames at a property called Korth's Pirate's Lair Marina. Owner Kande Korth said everyone got out safely.


FIRE LINES HOLDING

Crews battling a fire east of Napa Valley held their ground Friday, more than a week after it started.

The blaze has charred more than 12 square miles in Solano County. The fire is about 45 miles east of Napa's wine county, and vineyards are not threatened.

At least 136 structures are threatened, but evacuation orders have been lifted. It mostly contained, and crews are expecting to have it fully corralled by Monday.


FOOTHILLS FIRES

A woman has been arrested in connection with a small fire near Groveland, a stop-off point for travelers headed to Yosemite National Park.

The 200-acre fire, about 20 miles from the park's entrance, was partially contained Friday. About two dozen homes are threatened and voluntary evacuations are in place.

Lisa Ann Vilmur was arrested Thursday night for recklessly causing a fire and jailed on $100,000 bail. It was not known Friday if she has an attorney.

In a separate foothills blaze northeast of Sacramento, evacuation orders have been lifted for residents of 50 homes. The fire, which ignited Saturday, burned through more than 3 1/2 square miles and is almost fully contained.


BASS LAKE BLAZE

Residents of 200 homes in the central California community of Cascadel Woods were ordered to evacuate Thursday.

A wildfire burning near Bass Lake for several days spread to more than 6 square miles and is partially percent contained.

Authorities say a boy acknowledged starting the fire by playing with a lighter to burn pine needles in the dry Sierra Nevada. They say the boy faces criminal charges but is not in custody because he and his family are cooperating.


IN THE FAR NORTH

Three smaller fires in the far north that started Wednesday each prompted evacuations. Two in Shasta County, 130 miles south of the Oregon border, were more than half contained.

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