California residents flee new bushfires

California residents flee new bushfires

9 July 2008

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USA — Thousands of Americans north of Sacramento have been told to flee their homes after erratic winds blew embers across bushfire containment lines, the latest setback for already strained fire crews.

Authorities ordered residents of 3,200 homes in Paradise to evacuate their homes on Tuesday after fire destroyed 40 houses in the nearby rural community of Concow.

Evacuation orders also remained in place for 800 to 1,000 residents from Concow and Yankee Hill, about 130 kilometres north of Sacramento.

“Right now we’re battling the weather and the erratic winds,” said Todd Simmons, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman.

“Whatever the winds are doing, that’s pretty much what the fire’s going to do.”

Firefighters also were struggling against a sudden drop in humidity and a spike in temperature as a heat wave forecast to linger until the weekend grips much of the state.

About 30 lightning-sparked wildfires in Butte County, where Paradise and Concow are located, have charred 19,000 hectares in recent weeks and was about 40 per cent contained, officials said.

Fire crews across the state have been trying to cover hundreds of active California wildfires, many of which were ignited by a lightning storm more than two weeks ago.

Some 1,450 fires had been contained late on Tuesday night, but more than 320 were still active, authorities said.

At a fire east of Bakersfield, wind gusts caused flames to jump fire lines and destroy or damage five residences and four more outbuildings in the Sequoia National Forest.

A blaze threatening the small coastal community of Big Sur let up just enough to allow hundreds of people to check on their homes.

Authorities announced that more residents would be allowed to return on Thursday morning.

At least 23 homes and 25 other structures have been destroyed in Big Sur as flames marched over more than 324 square kilometres of land since June 21.

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