California wildfires destroy homes; winds hamper containment – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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PLACERVILLE, Calif .– (AP) – Dry and windy weather prevented firefighters efforts to contain the devastating fires that devoured bone-dry forests of drought-stricken northern California on Thursday.

An estimated 11,000 firefighters were on the lines of more than a dozen major forest fires that destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings, forced thousands of people to flee the communities, and filled the sky with smoke.

The monstrous Dixie Fire, which has been burning in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades since July 13, continued to expand to approximately 2,745 square kilometers and was only 35% contained, authorities said.

The fire that burned the city of Greenville two weeks ago destroyed more than 1,200 buildings, including 649 houses, according to current damage reports.

About 100 miles south, there was still no official count of the number of homes destroyed when the wind whipped the Caldor Fire into an inferno that roared through the Sierra town of Grizzly Flats this week. Anyone who watched the consequences saw only a few houses in the 1,200-inhabitant community.

Firefighters brought resources to the fire, which grew on steep slopes in a wooded area southwest of Lake Tahoe. More than 650 firefighters and 13 helicopters were assigned to the fire, and air tankers from across the state flew fire suppression missions there when conditions allowed, authorities said.

“The hope is that with the additional resources and personnel on site, we can really start building this crate around this fire and start containing it,” said Keith Wade, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Safety.

Evacuees from the Caldor Fire found refuge in places like Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, west of the fire, where they set up tents and trailers in a parking lot. Adrian Childress, 7, painted pictures to pass the time and a special tent was set up for prayers.

At Omo Ranch, near the scene of the fire, a bulldozer tore up trees to build a line of fire and stop the fire from spreading south.

While most of the city was evacuated, Thurman Conroy and his wife Michele stayed behind to protect their home and business, the Conroy General Store. But they were ready to flee if the fire got too close.

“The fire wants us very much because it has made every attempt to get out of this gorge and come here,” Thurman said. “So keep knocking it down. And it’s just … it’s resilient, it’s stubborn, it won’t go away. That’s all we can do. “

According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the California fires on Thursday were among 104 large, active flames in 12 states, mostly in the west. These fires combined burned nearly 4,000 square miles (10,360 square kilometers).

Climate change has made the west warmer and drier over the past 30 years and, according to scientists, will continue to make the weather more extreme and forest fires more devastating.

Drought, heat, low humidity, and wind have burned California’s vegetation this summer. More than two dozen new fires broke out on Wednesday alone. All but two were quickly contained.

A small but devastating fire left dozens of RVs in ruins in Lake County, about 80 miles north of San Francisco. Elsewhere in the northwestern region of the state, two major fires continued to burn in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric announced late Wednesday that it had power nearly 55% of the 48,000 Northern California customers who had their electricity turned off Tuesday to prevent new fires from starting if power lines were damaged in high winds. The restoration of the power supply for the remaining customers was expected by Thursday evening.

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Antczak reported from Los Angeles.