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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 27 February, 2020
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New California fire grows as crews make headway on other blazes

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said fire crews had been thwarted by people flying drones in the area.

Flames from a backfire consume a hillside as firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula.
Flames from a backfire consume a hillside as firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula.
Image: AP/PA Images

A NEW WILDFIRE in California grew to nearly 9,000 acres, sending thousands of people fleeing and further stretching resources in a state struggling with a spate of wildfires this season.

The so-called Maria Fire erupted on Thursday evening in Ventura County, 65 miles (northwest of Los Angeles, and burned out of control through the night, driven by high winds and threatening 2,300 structures.

By yesterday afternoon, the wind-fuelled blaze that risked consuming citrus and avocado orchards as well as other crops was zero percent contained. Authorities said 8,000 people were under evacuation orders and at least two structures had been burned.

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said fire crews had been thwarted by people flying drones in the area.

“Last night and early morning we had individuals flying small drones in the area of the flight operations for the fire suppression,” he told a media briefing. “This creates a very significant hazard for our airborne fire fighting assets and causes them to land and stop firefighting efforts as long as that aircraft is in the area.”

The Maria Fire erupted as crews continue to battle multiple blazes that have broken out across the state in the last two weeks, prompting massive evacuations and power cuts.

Another fire, the Easy Fire, which broke out Wednesday in Ventura County and came dangerously close to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, was almost fully contained yesterday.

“We’re in the middle of a big fight, and we’re about a week into this and the end is not yet in sight,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters Friday afternoon. “It has been an uphill battle ever since.”

Up in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, there was some good news as authorities reported that the Kincade Fire, the largest in the state this season, was 68% contained.

The devastating fires that have exploded across the state this season were addressed by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on Friday as she spoke at a rally in Los Angeles to pressure California lawmakers to pass stricter environmental policies.

© AFP 2019  

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