Dry and windy weather has dogged firefighters’ efforts to contain destructive fires that are devouring the bone-dry forests of drought-stricken northern California.
An estimated 11,000 firefighters on Thursday were on the lines of more than a dozen large fires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings, forced thousands of people to flee communities and filled skies with smoke.
The US’s largest blaze, which has burned since July 13 in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades, ballooned further to about 2745 square kilometres and was only 35 per cent contained, authorities said.
The Dixie Fire, which gutted the town of Greenville two weeks ago, has destroyed more than 1200 buildings including 649 homes.
About 16km to the south, there was still no official count of the number of homes destroyed when winds whipped the Caldor Fire into an inferno that roared through the Sierra town of Grizzly Flats this week.
Fire managers were rushing resources to the fire growing on steep slopes in a forested region southwest of Lake Tahoe.
More than 650 firefighters and 13 helicopters were assigned to the blaze, and air tankers were flying fire suppression missions there as conditions allowed, authorities said.
California’s fires were among 104 large, active blazes on Thursday in 12 states, mostly in the west, which have scorched nearly 10,360 sq km.
Drought, heat, low humidity and winds have left California vegetation ready to burn this summer. More than two-dozen new fires erupted on Wednesday alone. All but two were quickly contained.