Winds threaten to enrage destructive California wildfire

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Winds Threaten To Enrage Destructive California Wildfire Winds Threaten To Enrage Destructive California Wildfire
Western Wildfires, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Associated Press

Crews were digging in and burning out fire lines amid fears that another round of high winds on Saturday will bring renewed fury to a wildfire in the United States.

“We have a firefight ahead of us and the wind today is going to make it very challenging,” said Keith Wade, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

The Caldor Fire in the northern Sierra Nevada has already destroyed dozens of homes, and authorities on Friday closed down a 46-mile stretch of Interstate 50, the main route between the state capital of Sacramento and Lake Tahoe on the Nevada state line.

The road was closed because of fire debris and red flag warnings for 20 to 30mph winds that could gust to 40 mph throughout Saturday.

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The road is a key checkpoint as crews struggle against the fire, which erupted earlier this week and grew to 10 times its size in a few days, fuelled by winds.


“We’re going to invest everything we can into holding the fire south” of the road, said Eric Schwab, an operations section chief with Cal Fire.

Firefighters made progress on the fire’s western side and burned vegetation to starve it of fuel and prevent the flames from heading into the evacuated community of Pollock Pines.

The Caldor Fire had now devoured about 130 square miles as of Saturday and more than 1,500 firefighters were battling it amid heavy timber and rugged terrain.

The blaze was one of about a dozen large California wildfires that have scorched northern California, incinerating at least 700 homes alone in and around the Sierra Nevada communities of Greenville and Grizzly Flats.

The fires, mainly in the northern part of the state, have burned nearly 1.5 million acres, or roughly 2,300 square miles and have sent smoke as far as the east coast.

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A firefighter extinguishes flames from the Caldor Fire on Hazel Valley Road east of Riverton, California (Ethan Swope/AP)

They were burning in grass, brush and forest that is exceptionally dry from two years of drought.

Thousands of homes remained under threat in communities tucked away in scenic forests and tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders.

Nine national forests in the region have been closed because of the fire threat.

To the northwest of the Caldor Fire, the massive Dixie Fire kept expanding and new evacuations were ordered, including the tiny hamlet of Taylorsville.

In five weeks, the fire about 175 miles northeast of San Francisco has become the second-largest in state history and blackened an area twice the size of Los Angeles.

California is one of a dozen mostly western states where 99 large, active fires were burning as of Friday, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre.

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