California fires trap children at summer camp

2017-07-09 16:33

Santa Maria - A pair of California wildfires has spread quickly, threatening hundreds of homes and forcing evacuations at a popular lakeside campground and a summer camp where flames temporarily trapped children and counsellors, a fire official said.

In other parts of the West, evacuation orders were lifted in Colorado and Montana towns threatened by wildfires, while air and ground crews battled a growing grass fire in northwestern Colorado.

(AP)

The fire that started early on Saturday afternoon in California's Santa Barbara County had spread to both sides of Highway 154 and was "completely out of control" county fire Captain Dave Zaniboni said. About 90 children and 50 counsellors were struck at the Circle V Ranch and had to take shelter there until they could be safely evacuated.

The Santa Barbara County fire was one of three in California that grew quickly as much of the state baked in heat that broke records. A record that stood 131 years in Los Angeles was snapped when the temperature spiked at 36°C downtown. The previous record of 35°C was set in 1886, the National Weather Service said.

(AP)

Excessive heat sent Southern Californians flocking to beaches and in search of water, shade and air conditioning to escape the heat.

Forecasters warned that 43°C would be common in some inland areas and could be deadly for the elderly, children and outdoor workers. Air quality reached unhealthy and very unhealthy in areas inland from Los Angeles.

High temps and dry gusts tripled the size of another Santa Barbara wildfire to nearly 77km² over eight hours and forced evacuations of about 200 homes in a rural area east of Santa Maria, fire spokesperson Kirk Sturm said.

After five years of severe drought, California got a big break with record rainfall and snow pack in parts of the state this year that has delayed the start of fire season in some places, but has also led to explosive vegetation growth that could fuel future fires.

In Northern California, a Butte County wildfire swept through grassy foothills and destroyed 10 structures, including homes, and led to several minor injuries.

Burned-out pickup trucks were left in ashes, surrounded by charred, leafless trees. The metal frame of a mobile home and a vintage stove were left standing in scorched debris at one site.

(AP)

The blaze about 100km north of Sacramento grew rapidly to more than 11km² and was 20% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The area burning was about 16km south of Oroville, where spillways in the nation's tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200 000 residents downstream. On Saturday, authorities issued an evacuation for about 250 homes threatened by the fire.

In the middle of the afternoon, Santa Barbara officials sent out alerts to residents and campers near Cachuma Lake to evacuate as the fire started near Whittier Camp, Zaniboni said.

The lake, which was nearly bone dry last summer after the severe drought, is popular for camping, boating and fishing. Residents were also ordered to leave cabins in the Los Padres National Forest.

The fire burned at least 12km², including a portion of the Cachuma Lake campground, and was not contained.


(AP)

In Colorado, residents of nearly 500 homes outside the ski town of Breckenridge were allowed to return home Friday night. On Saturday, authorities lifted an evacuation order in Landusky, Montana, in the Little Rocky Mountains south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

The grass fire in northwestern Colorado had burned 47km² and was spreading in several directions at once because of wind patterns from passing thunderstorms, fire information officer Chris Barth said.

A wildfire in southern Wyoming grew to 8km².

An unknown number of cabins remained under evacuation orders.

Read more on:    us  |  wildfires

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