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Tens of thousands flee their homes as US emergency services battle fierce wildfires

Several fires have struck the state of California this week.

A firefighter sprays water on a burning home earlier this week
A firefighter sprays water on a burning home earlier this week
Image: AP/PA Images

WILDFIRES CONTINUED TO rage across California on Friday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, as over 1,000 firefighters tackled flames in the southern part of the state alone.

Tens of thousands of residents near Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, fled their homes as the so-called Tick Fire scorched over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) and was only contained by ten percent by last night.

The blaze forced the shutdown of all schools in the area as well as a major highway, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters.

New evacuations in the area were ordered early on Friday as the fire that began the day before continued to spread, driven by so-called Santa Ana winds gusting up to 105km per hour.

Some 1,325 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling the flames that raced toward densely packed communities and threatened 10,000 structures, officials said.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told a news conference that six homes have been destroyed, before adding that the number was expected to rise.

u-s-california-wild-fire Firefighters work at a fire spot in Santa Clarita Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

High temperatures and dry conditions

At least four other fires have erupted in southern California this week, fueled by high temperatures above degrees 30 Celsius and bone dry conditions.

A red flag warning indicating ripe conditions for wildfire was in effect for more than 18 million people in the southern part of the state until Friday evening.

The National Weather Service warned that although wind speeds were set to decrease later on Friday, they were expected to pick up again on Sunday and Monday in the southern part of the state.

“It looks like another Santa Ana is coming,” meteorologist Eric Boldt told AFP. “Right now, we’re looking at moderate strength winds [on Sunday and Monday].”

Still, he added, the state remains “critically dry” with little humidity, creating an environment ripe for large and dangerous fire growth.

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u-s-california-wild-fire A burnt-out car in Sonoma County in the US state of California Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A number of wildfires are also raging in the northern part of the state. The most serious — the Kincade Fire — broke out late Wednesday in the Sonoma wine region, also prompting evacuations.

The high risk of fires has led to pre-emptive power cuts to thousands of customers and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

Newsom told reporters that Sonoma looked like a “war zone,” with homes and vehicles destroyed.

Instense fires also erupted over the border in Mexico’s Baja California state, where local civil protection authorities said on Friday that three people had been killed and over 150 homes destroyed.

The director of Civil Protection, Antonio Rosquillas, explained that the municipality of Tecate, bordering the United States, was worst hit.

- © AFP 2019

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