California fires destroy over 1 500 homes

2015-09-22 10:27
A house is engulfed in flames during the Valley fire in Seigler Springs, California. (Josh Edelson, AFP)

A house is engulfed in flames during the Valley fire in Seigler Springs, California. (Josh Edelson, AFP)

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Los Angeles - More than 1 500 homes have been destroyed in two immense fires that have torn through California over the last week, causing millions of dollars in damage, state officials said Monday.

The Valley and Butte fires, about 160km from San Francisco, will cost "in the tens of millions if not in the hundreds of millions," Brad Alexander, spokesman for the state's Office of Emergency Services, told AFP.

He said the exact economic cost "will take a long time to assess" and will include clearing debris, rebuilding homes and other structures, and reimbursing lost wages for residents displaced by the flames.

The two fires have started to come under control in recent days, allowing damage assessment to begin and evacuation orders to be eased.

The fires have killed at least five residents so far and Alexander said that tally could rise as damage assessment continues.

In total, 2,600 structures have been destroyed by the two blazes so far, including the 1,500 homes, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which said six large fires remain in California and the state is their "top priority."

On Sunday, California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said the Valley and Butte fires had become, respectively, the sixth and seventh most destructive ever in the state.

Both are approximately 70% now contained.

But new fires continue to start in the drought-parched state. CalFire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said that firefighters responded to 150 new wildfires just last week.

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