Crews battle growing wildfire near homes in California


LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — Firefighters fought to spare homes Friday from a growing Southern California forest fire, a day after flames came perilously close to neighborhoods and destroyed one house.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire carved its way along ridges in Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles.

Some hillsides were allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.

Aircraft dropped fire retardant on flames and homes as people ignoring evacuation orders used garden hoses to spray down their properties when the blaze flared Thursday evening, propelled by 20-mph (30-kph) gusts.

Shannon Hicks, 59, defied an evacuation order and watched in awe as firefighters faced down a storm of flames that descended toward her street in the city of Lake Elsinore.

“It looked like a tornado. The flames were just twirling and twirling,” she said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way they’re saving my house.’ But somehow they did.”

One resident wasn’t so lucky. Standing in the ashes of his burned home on Friday, Dan Pritchett told KNBC-TV that he and his brother stayed until a wall of flames roared near.

“I turned to him and said, ‘Let’s go,'” Pritchett said. “(There were) 100-foot flames right on the crest of the hill, right in front of me.”

Along with Pritchett’s home, the Holy Fire burned 12 cabins at its origin in the community of Holy Jim on Monday. It had grown to nearly 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) by Friday night. However, firefighters also doubled their containment from 5 to 10 percent.

It’s one of nearly 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

Firefighters aided by cooler weather have made good progress against a blaze burning for nearly a month near Yosemite National Park in the northern part of the state. The park was set to reopen Tuesday after a two-week closure, park spokesman Scott Gediman said Friday.

Visitors should expect limited hours and visitor services next week as the park returns to normal, he said. The blaze didn’t reach the heart of the park and instead burned in remote areas, making roads inaccessible and polluting the area with smoke.

The closure dealt a financial blow to Yosemite at the height of the summer season and caused upheaval for thousands of tourists whose summer trips were canceled.

Officials also gained more control over two other major Northern California wildfires, including the largest in recorded state history, even as evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 70 miles northeast of Redding.

About 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Hat Fire, which began Thursday near a highway.

In the south, Cleveland National Forest officials tweeted that the flames outside Los Angeles were growing as fast as crews can …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

      

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