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Deadly Northern California wildfire incinerates homes

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Animal rescue group volunteer Nicole Walters carries a goat to a trailer from a home threatened by a fire near Railroad Flat, California.
A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation inmate work crew builds a containment line ahead of a wildfire in Sheep Ranch, California.


An explosive wildfire burned largely unchecked yesterday after incinerating homes, apartment blocks, and hundreds of other buildings as it raced through rural communities in Northern California's Lake County, leaving at least one person dead and sending thousands fleeing down flame-lined streets.

But it's not the only one. A second massive wildfire, less than 200 miles away, is blamed for destroying 135 homes as it spread through Amador and Calaveras, counties in the Sierra Nevada. That fire was 30 per cent contained.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection confirmed one fatality in the Lake County wildfire that raced through dry brush and exploded in size within hours. In addition to the homes, officials also counted two apartment complexes and 10 businesses destroyed by the flames, department spokeswoman Lynn Valentine said.

Valentine couldn't provide details on the circumstances of the death. By yesterday morning, crews had gained five per cent containment of the 95-square-mile blaze.

In addition, up to 1,000 structures such as barns, sheds, and other outbuildings were burned, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

A shift in the weather was expected for the first part of the week as a trough of low pressure approached the West Coast. The National Weather Service said that would mean a cooling trend with increasing winds, higher humidity and showers, then more widespread precipitation tomorrow. The week will end drier and warmer.

In Lake County, residents fled from Middletown, dodging smoldering telephone poles, downed power lines, and fallen trees as they drove through billowing smoke.