Thousands forced to flee devastating California wildfires

By Sarah Harvey

Los Padres National Forest firefighter Jameson Springer watches a controlled burn on the so-called "Rough Fire" in the Sequoia National Forest, California. REUTERS/Max Whittaker.
Los Padres National Forest firefighter Jameson Springer watches a controlled burn on the so-called "Rough Fire" in the Sequoia National Forest, California. REUTERS/Max Whittaker.
A drought-fuelled fire season threatens to become the worst America's west has ever experienced.

Thousands of residents have fled their homes in northern California as more than 5000 firefighters tackle up to 12 wildfires across the state. In some cases residents had only minutes to evacuate; in others whole towns were forced to escape with homes and business destroyed.

Since January, firefighters in California have responded to nearly 6800 wildfires burning 545,000 acres.

According to the BBC News one blaze, the Valley Fire, which started on Saturday in Lake County, north of San Francisco, has already burned 40,000 acres (16,190 hectares).

Four firefighters were injured fighting the fires over the weekend and had to be airlifted to hospital with second degree burns. They are in a stable condition. Cal Fire has asked all firefighters to report for duty cancelling any previously scheduled days off.

A firefighter covers his face while battling the Butte fire near San Andreas, California. REUTERS/Noah Berger
A firefighter covers his face while battling the Butte fire near San Andreas, California.
REUTERS/Noah Berger

 

The state has been in drought conditions for four years and the resulting wildfires on tinder-dry land have been devastating.

Fire protection department spokesman Daniel Berlant told the AFP news agency that more than 275 homes and other buildings had been destroyed. The Red Cross is opening emergency shelters for evacuated residents.

Also at threat is the state’s numerous vineyards.

Nearly half of America’s wineries are in California and concentrated in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Harvest season, the most important time of the year, has recently begun.

 

Los Padres National Forest firefighters watch a controlled burn on the so-called "Rough Fire" in the Sequoia National Forest, California. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
Los Padres National Forest firefighters watch a controlled burn on the so-called “Rough Fire” in the Sequoia National Forest, California. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

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