California wildfires: Trump declares major disaster

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US President Donald Trump has declared that wildfires burning through homes and devastating precious forestry in California are a serious disaster and he has released federal aid.

More than 14,000 fire-fighters are battling 585 fires that have now burnt nearly a million acres (400,000 ha).

Forecast high winds are threatening to drive flames into more populated areas as foul air blankets the state.

At least six people have died and thousands have evacuated.

Most of the destruction has been caused by three large fires complexes in mountainous and wooded rural areas.

On Saturday Governor Gavin Newsom said the SCU Lightening Complex fire south and east of San Francisco is that the third-largest in California’s history.

Video tweeted by the governor showed burnt tree stumps against the reddened fumes-filled sky and plumes of white smoke rising from ash-laden ground.

An evacuation order on Saturday extended to thousands of individuals within the Bay area near San Jose and warned others to be prepared to abandon their homes at short notice.

Exhausted fire-fighters still battle the flames, with some working 72-hour shifts within the dangerous, hot conditions reports AP press agency . “They’re scrambling for bodies” to assist fight the fires, a politician within the city of Fresno told Reuters press agency .

In California’s oldest state park, flames scorched redwood trees that began their lives quite 2,000 years ago. The historic visitor centre of massive Basin State Park was burnt to the bottom and officials say some trees, which tower as high as 330ft (100 metres), have fallen because the area was “extensively damaged”.

The state faces are more acute shortage of personnel than usual – the coronavirus pandemic has depleted a fire-fighting corps made from prisoners, which has helped the state battle blazes since war Two, thanks to early releases from jail.

At least 43 people including fire-fighters are injured, and many buildings have burned down and thousands more are threatened.

After doubling in size on Friday, the fires continued to grow moderately on Saturday and fire-fighters made some progress in containing the flames.

More than 12,000 dry lightning strikes started the blazes last week during a historic wave during which thermometers in Death Valley park reached what might be the very best ever temperature reliably recorded.

The largest wildfire, called the LNU Lightening complex, is within the prominent wine-growing areas of Napa and Sonoma north of San Francisco and is simply 15% contained, CalFire said on Saturday.

Further south in Santa Cruz county, 115 homes are destroyed and a few residents evacuated.

“I left with my clothes … two guitars and a dog,” one evacuee in Santa Cruz told CNN affiliate KGO.

Fire-fighters dug a fireline round the University of California Santa Cruz campus as flames came within a mile of the buildings and surrounding area.

Gov Newsom has requested help from as far afield as Australia and Canada. Fire-fighters, engines and surveillance planes raced in from US states including Oregon, New Mexico and Texas.

Although California is employed to wildfire, the governor called the fires unlike anything the state had seen before. “If you do not believe global climate change , come to California,” he tweeted on Saturday.

With quite 650,000 coronavirus cases, California also has the very best number of infections within the US, and a few evacuees have said they’re afraid to travel to emergency shelters.

US agencies have updated disaster preparedness and evacuation guidance in light of Covid-19. people that could also be required to escape are to told to hold a minimum of two face masks per person, also as hand sanitiser, soap and disinfectant wipes.

Emergency shelters are enforcing social distancing rules and mask wearing, and have even given individual tents to families to self-isolate. Some counties are seeking to line up separate shelters for sick evacuees or anyone who is found to possess a heat .

Officials say people should consider sheltering with family and friends.Officials also advise people to stay indoors thanks to the poor air quality outside.

California is additionally facing electricity shortages, which have caused rolling blackouts for thousands of consumers . Officials have appealed for residents to use less power or risk further cuts.

Satellite images show smoke blanketing nearly all of California, also most of Nevada and southern Idaho.

Source: bbc news

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