Fire crews fight California heat, advancing flames
OROVILLE, Calif. — A fast-moving wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed 10 structures, including homes, and led to several minor injuries, fire officials said Saturday as blazes threatened homes around California during a heat wave.
The fire south of Oroville was one of more than a dozen burning in the state as firefighters worked in scorching temperatures to control unruly flames.
An excessive heat wave in Southern California set records in several cities, breaking a mark set for the date in Los Angeles 131 years ago, the National Weather Service said.
Around noon, the downtown temp spiked at 96 degrees, topping the 1886 record by a degree.
Forecasters warned that triple-digit temps up to 110 degrees would be common in some inland areas and could be deadly for the elderly, children and outdoor workers.
Air quality was expected to be unhealthy and very unhealthy in areas inland from Los Angeles.
High temps and dry gusts helped a fire in Santa Barbara County double in size overnight to more than 9 square miles, county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.
Hundreds of residents living near Santa Maria were under orders to abandon their homes as the fire was only 10 percent contained.
More than 1,000 firefighters were deployed to the fire that sent plumes over northern Santa Barbara County and southern San Luis Obispo County. Five helicopters and four planes were also attacking the flames and working to protect homes.
After five years of severe drought, California got a big break with record rainfall and snowpack in parts of the state this year that has delayed the start of fire season in some places, but has also led to explosive vegetation growth that could fuel future fires.
The blaze burning south of Oroville swept through grassy growth and spread through tall trees as it grew rapidly to more than 1.5 square miles and was only 2 percent contained.
In the wake of the flames, burned-out pickup trucks were left in ashes, surrounded by charred, leafless trees. The metal frame of a mobile home and a vintage stove were all that were left standing on a platform covered in scorched debris.
Five residents and one firefighter suffered minor injuries in the Butte County fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported, and evacuation orders were in place in the rural area about 60 miles north of Sacramento.
The area burning is about 10 miles south of Oroville, where spillways in the nation’s tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200,000 residents downstream.