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Northern California wildfires spur evacuations, state of emergency declaration

Thousands of people were under orders to evacuate broad areas of Northern California Wednesday as some 30 wildfires blazed across the state amid a blistering heat wave now in its second week.

“Throughout the state of California right now, we are stretched thin for crews” because of the fires, said Will Powers, a state fire spokesperson. “Air resources have been stretched thin throughout the whole state.”

Thousands of homes and businesses were threatened in the wine-growing counties of Napa and Sonoma in an area devastated by a series of deadly blazes in the last three years. At least seven fires were grouped together as one of two major lightning fires in Northern California, a nod to their origins just a day earlier.

Fire officials warned of “extreme fire behaviour” challenging firefighters there, including strong winds. Powers said much of the fire was burning through rural areas with steep terrain, making it difficult to get crews in.

Police and firefighters went door-to-door in Vacaville early Wednesday in a frantic scramble to warn residents to evacuate, KPIX-TV reported. Footage showed some homes in flames.

Southern California also seeing some fires

In Napa County, Gail Bickett, 80, loaded up her three dogs in a truck to evacuate as the fire burned behind houses across the road, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a statewide state of emergency Tuesday.

Blazes engulfed rural and forest areas near the San Francisco Bay Area, near Salinas in Monterey County, around Oroville Dam north of Sacramento, forested areas west of Silicon Valley, in remote Mendocino County and near the Nevada state line north of Lake Tahoe.

A home in the Sky Ranch community burns in the Carmel Fire near Carmel Valley, Calif., on Tuesday. (Nic Coury/The Associated Press)

The cluster of wine country fires threaten an area that only last year grappled with another massive blaze that forced 200,000 to flee — a task made more complicated this year because of the pandemic.

On Tuesday afternoon, the fire was moving toward an area called Atlas Peak that burned in 2017 in a blaze that killed six people and destroyed nearly 800 buildings.

To the south, evacuations were ordered for all of Boulder Creek to the west of Silicon Valley, a community of 5,000 high in the Santa Cruz mountains where windy, long, forested roads, some paved, some dirt, can easily become blocked during storms or fires.

Several also were burning in northern coastline areas and in Southern California.

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