Jul 25, 2016

Wildfires Sweep Through Nearly 50,000 Acres in California

Central and Southern, CA
by
Christine Hauser
,
The New York Times
Thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes as a wildfire threatens the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. A resident describes being evacuated as firefighters worked to save his neighborhood. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press.
Thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes as a wildfire threatens the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. A resident describes being evacuated as firefighters worked to save his neighborhood. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press.

Thousands of firefighters were battling wildfires on Monday in central and Southern California that have burned through nearly 50,000 acres and prompted thousands of people to evacuate their homes, the authorities said.

One of the blazes, called the “Sand Fire,” broke out on Friday in the Santa Clarita area and burned deeper into the mountains above Los Angeles over the weekend. It was about 10 percent contained, the United States Forest Service said Monday morning. The moving wall of flames had scorched more than 33,000 acres and had forced about 20,000 residents from their homes, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

A separate fire in the Big Sur area, on the central coast, had spread to nearly 15,000 acres by Monday morning, officials said.

The cause of both fires was still being investigated.

An unidentified burned body was found in a car parked in a Santa Clarita driveway, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Mike A. Barraza said by phone on Monday that the department was awaiting the results of an autopsy.

The authorities in Monterey County — with a population over 415,000 — expanded their evacuation orders as the fire continued to spread from the Palo Colorado Canyon and Garrapata State Park regions. Up to 1,650 structures were in danger, officials said.

Teams of firefighters — about 3,000 total — have been battling both blazes since Friday. In the Angeles National Forest area, firefighters were also contending with rising temperatures and high winds. High temperatures up to 98 degrees, with 60 percent humidity, were expected on Monday, with winds up to 25 miles per hour.

...

Experts say wildfires in the United States are becoming more destructive, with the increase in recent years attributed to a warming climate, suppression tactics and the building of homes in fire-prone areas.

In Monterey County on Monday, firefighters had to deal with steep terrain that was heavily forested with Monterey pines and redwoods, and blanketed with grass and brush.

Jonathan Pangburn, a State Cal Fire spokesman with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, watched as crews and bulldozers started building containment lines around him at the northern end of the fire near the Carmel highlands.

“There has been a pretty intense drought for years,” he said by telephone. “This last winter and spring we had pretty close to average rainfalls, but it was nowhere near enough to counter the intense drough"