Massive wildfire raging north of San Francisco spreads, threatens thousands of homes



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Blazes raging in forests and woodlands across California have taken the life of a firefighter and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes as crews continue to battle the flames. (Aug. 2)

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LOWER LAKE, California — Wildfires blazing in several Western states Sunday chewed up forests and threatened homes but were most numerous in Northern California where dozens are raging and setting off evacuations.

Wildfires are also burning in Washington and Oregon.

The biggest California wildfire — raging in the Lower Lake area north of San Francisco — spread through Sunday to cover even more drought-stricken ground.

The fast-moving blaze had charred 84 square miles by Sunday night, an area much bigger than San Francisco's 49 square miles.

The fire has destroyed 24 homes and 26 outbuildings and was threatening 6,300 homes.

However, no homes were lost on Sunday, state fire spokesman Jay Smith said.

Many of the California blazes were sparked by lightning and exacerbated by tinder-dry trees and grass and erratic winds.

The danger was expected to continue with scattered thunderstorms and gusty winds forecast for some areas of Northern California into Monday, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

More than 9,000 firefighters were working to quell the blazes. One firefighter was killed late last week at the scene of a fire at the Modoc National Forest, 100 miles south of the Oregon border.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for California and activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery.

California on Sunday secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the blaze burning in Lake County, said California Governor's Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci.

The federal grant will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75 percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs, Ghilarducci said.


BURNING HILLS

The wildfire north of San Francisco has been raging in an area of hills covered in dense brush and oak trees since Wednesday. It is only 5 percent contained.

Cal Fire says an evacuation advisory has been issued affecting 12,000 people in a sweeping region of ranches and small rural communities. Several roads have been closed.


FIREFIGHTER KILLED

Engine Capt. David Ruhl, from South Dakota, was killed battling a fast-moving blaze that broke out Thursday in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon.

Ruhl was in a vehicle Thursday, looking for ways to fight the blaze, when officials lost contact with him, fire information officer Ken Sandusky said. His body was recovered Friday.

An autopsy to determine the cause of death will be conducted this week, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Ruhl, part of a Black Hills National Forest firefighting team, had been helping California firefighters since June.

The fire had grown to about 6 square miles Sunday, and it was 20 percent contained.


FIREFIGHTERS INJURED

Three firefighters who were burned on a fire northeast of Sacramento on Saturday have been released from the hospital. One has returned to duty and all are expected to make a full recovery, fire officials said.

A fourth firefighter remains hospitalized with serious burns.

The fire that began on July 25 destroyed two buildings and 54 homes and other buildings are still considered at risk in Placer and Nevada Counties. The 3 ½-square-mile blaze is 85 percent contained.


LIGHTNING FIRES

In Humboldt County, 600 firefighters were battling 18 small blazes Sunday that were sparked by lightning. At least 70 fires have been reported in the area since Thursday. Of those, 52 have been contained, Cal Fire said.

The blazes have charred 2,000 acres and destroyed two structures in steep, difficult to access terrain.

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