California wildfires: Record 2 million acres torched in as entire towns evacuated

Authorities warn that worst of fires could be still to come

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 08 September 2020 16:45 BST
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The wildfires devastating huge areas of California are still roaring out of control, with more than two million acres of land devastated and more than 14,000 firefighters fighting the blazes across the state.

The latest fires have already made this the state’s worst wildfire season on record – and what are typically the most dangerous months of any year are still to come.

On Monday, authorities evacuated the entire mountain town of Auberry in central California, advising 2,500 people to leave their homes immediately in the face of the advancing Creek Fire. Currently covering more than 130,000 acres and 0 per cent contained, the blaze has led governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in three counties.

As many as 200 people are awaiting rescue from the Sierra National Forest, and the adjacent Yosemite National Park is already taking preventative measures, including closing large areas to all visitors. Small communities have been evacuated in the face of the fire’s advance, with many buildings destroyed as military helicopters arrived to rescue scores of people from harm’s way.

The small town of Big Creek was largely engulfed by the fire; while several key buildings survived, including the elementary school and church, around half of its private residences have reportedly been destroyed.

“Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community. And it is a very close-knit community,” resident Toby Wait told The Fresno Bee.

The Creek Fire is just one of numerous fires burning across the state after a hot and dry season marked by low humidity and high winds. A heatwave over the Labor Day weekend has only made fighting the fires more difficult; while various others are contained, there is an ongoing risk that others may start and sweep quickly across dry landscapes.

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