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More than 82,000 flee California fires as state of emergency declared

There are three separate wildfires currently raging through California.

Freelance photographer Noah Berger rescues a goat while on assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Freelance photographer Noah Berger rescues a goat while on assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Image: JOSH EDELSON

A RAPIDLY SPREADING fire raging east of Los Angeles forced the evacuation of more than 82,000 people yesterday as the governor of California declared a state of emergency.

Around 34,500 buildings were threatened by the blaze, according to the multi-agency information site Inciweb.

Governor Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency for San Bernardino County, located just 60 miles (100 kilometres) east of Los Angeles, where the blaze, which has been named the Blue Cut fire, was quickly growing.

The fire, which began yesterday, has already burned more than 9,000 acres, according to Inciweb.

It poses “imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures,” according to the website, which said 82,640 people fell under an evacuation warning.

California is in its fifth year of a record drought and undergoing an extreme heat wave.

Two firefighters were lightly injured by the blaze, which some 700 fire personnel are battling, according to Inciweb.

Clayton Fire

Fire season is in full swing in California, where another fire has been burning 100 miles north of San Francisco since Saturday.

The Clayton Fire, as it is called, has burned more than 4,000 acres and is being fought by around 1,700 fire personnel who have brought some 35% of the blaze under control, according to the website Cal Fire.

More than 175 buildings have been destroyed as the blaze continues to move aggressively to the north, it said.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES Source: Josh Edelson/Press Association

A man was arrested by Lake County authorities for starting the massive Clayton Fire.

Damin Anthony Pashilk, aged 40, faces 17 counts of arson, Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said during a community meeting at a casino that is serving as an evacuation center for some of the 4,000 people driven from their homes.

His announcement was greeted with cheers and applause.

State firefighting agency Cal Fire said Pashilk was suspected of setting “numerous fires” in Lake County over the past year.

According to the LA Times, there are currently three fires burning through California:

  • Blue Cut fire: 18,000 acres near the 15 Freeway in Cajon Pass; began yesterday
  • Clayton fire: 4,000 acres and 175 structures burned near Clear Lake; 35% contained (as of late yesterday); began on Saturday
  • Chimney fire: 6,900 acres and 40 structures destroyed in San Luis Obispo County; 20% contained (as of late yesterday); began on Saturday.

“The residents of Lake County have experienced senseless loss and endured significant hardship over the past year,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said in a statement.

Mr Pashilk committed a horrific crime and we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

The fire was burning in an area of grassy woodland with heavy brush that was difficult for firefighters to access, Cal Fire said.

The community is still reeling from last year’s devastating Valley Fire that killed four people, destroyed more than 1,300 homes and burned through more than 76,000 acres.

- © AFP, 2016

Read: US federal government sues man for $25 million over massive wildfire

Read: The huge wildfire in Canada has grown more than ten times in size

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