Forest fires rage in sweltering California

July 10, 2017
A firefighter drinks water in front of a burning house near Oroville, California on July 9, 2017. Crews are battling the season's first major wildfires since the state's five-year drought ended earlier this year

Wildfires raged Sunday across much of California forcing hundreds to evacuate homes as the most populous US state sweltered in record heat.

About 5,000 firefighters were battling 14 large wildfires around the state, according to Cal Fire. Among the largest was the Alamo near San Luis Obispo county, about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The fire there had scorched 23,876 acres (100 square kilometers) and was just 15 percent contained, officials said.

In neighboring Santa Barbara County about 1,000 firefighters were racing to contain that fire with help from water-dropping helicopters.

"Low humidity, high heat and the winds are right—and there's just a lot of stuff to burn," Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Gina DePinto told journalists.

Meanwhile, a fire in Butte county in the north-central part of the state destroyed 5,600 acres and 17 structures, Cal Fire said. Evacuations were in effect and four injuries have been reported.

The Whittier fire in Santa Barbara County which started on Saturday afternoon had affected 7,800 acres and was just five percent controlled.

Area resident Sarah Gustafson told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that she was getting her tires changed when she saw a pillar of smoke rising and realized her six cats were trapped at home.

A man covers his truck in fire retardant as smoke billows outside the town of Oroville, California. About 5,000 firefighters were battling the first major wildfires since the end of California's five-year drought, amid devastation and evacuations

She rushed back and managed to save the animals, and described a sky painted orange and black and "flames up on the ridge."

"It was terrifying," she told the paper. "When I got home it was smokey with ash."

She then scrambled back to a Red Cross shelter parking lot where she and her cats spent the night.

Most of southern California including metropolitan Los Angeles has been in the grips of a blistering heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius).

California Governor Jerry Brown in April declared the official end of the state's drought that lasted more than five years.

But he kept in place water reporting requirements, as well as bans on practices such as watering during or following rainfall and hosing off sidewalks.

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