LOWER LAKE, Calif. — Wildfires blazing in several Western states Sunday chewed up forests and threatened homes but were most numerous in Northern California where dozens are raging and setting off evacuations.
Wildfires are also burning in Washington and Oregon.
The biggest California wildfire — raging in the Lower Lake area north of San Francisco — spread overnight to cover even more drought-stricken ground, expanding more than 30 acres in four or five hours, said California’s Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott.
The fast-moving blaze had charred 71 square miles by Sunday, an area much bigger than San Francisco’s 49 square miles.
The fire has destroyed 24 homes and 26 outbuildings and was threatening 5,000 homes.
Many of the California blazes were sparked by lightning and exacerbated by tinder dry trees and grass and erratic winds, Pimlott said.
“The biggest challenge is the extreme and explosive rates of spread of these fires,” he said.
More than 9,000 firefighters are working to quell the blazes. One firefighter was killed late last week at the scene of a fire at the Modoc National Forest, 100 miles south of the Oregon border.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for California and activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery.
California on Sunday secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the blaze burning in Lake County, said California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci.
The federal grant, which is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund on cost-share basis, will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75-percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs, Ghilarducci said.
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