Deadly Western Wildfires Continue to Destroy Homes in Colorado, Utah, California

Pam Wright and Sean Breslin
Published: July 8, 2018

Deadly wildfires blazing in the West continue to trigger evacuations and destroy homes amid hot, dry conditions. 

A fast-moving, wind-driven fire broke out overnight Friday in Goleta, California. Twenty structures were destroyed and 2,500 people were evacuated from the area, according to Santa Barbara County officials. The evacuation orders were greatly reduced Saturday afternoon, allowing many who fled Friday to return home.

Dubbed the Holiday Fire, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said the blaze was first reported on Holiday Hill Road and quickly consumed nearby vegetation. The fire burned about 100 acres as of Sunday morning and was 80 percent contained.

In Los Angeles County, another fire broke out in the mountain slope above Burbank, according to the Associated Press. Helicopters responded, dumping water on the blaze.

Officials deployed a supertanker, which can carry 19,200 gallons of water, retardant or suppressant, from Colorado to help fight the fires in California on Saturday. 

A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson told the Associated Press that one death has been confirmed near the California-Oregon border, but the victim has not been identified. It's believed that the fire is directly responsible for the death.

The blaze jumped Interstate 5 and forced officials to close the southbound lanes on the Oregon side of the state line, according to the AP. The fire was sparked Thursday afternoon and forced evacuations in the town of Hornbrook, California, the report added.

The fire, named the Klamathon Fire, has burned more than 47 square miles and is 25 percent contained. Cal Fire said numerous homes were damaged, destroyed or threatened by the flames. A firefighter was injured while battling the blaze. Around 1,000 firefighters are now at work on the Klamathon fire, KDRV reports.

Forty structures have been destroyed and hundreds of homes in two states are being threatened. Around 750 people were evacuated over the "extreme fire behavior with movement in multiple directions," according to Cal Fire.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Siskyou County as a response to the fire.

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Another Northern California inferno, named the County Fire, still threatens 1,000 homes, but authorities are hopeful that cooler weather will help crews get the blaze under control.

The fire has sent smoke pouring into the Bay Area, turning the skies a hazy orange hue; the smoke can also be clearly seen from space.

Smoke from the County Fire is seen over California in this image acquired July 1, 2018 by NASA's Aqua satellite.
(NASA)

Since being sparked Saturday, the blaze has burned more than 138 square miles of land in Yolo and Napa counties and was 58percent contained as of Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire.

A brush fire also forced evacuations Friday afternoon in Southern California, northeast of San Diego. Homes near Interstate 8 in the town of Alpine were in immediate danger as the flames spread rapidly, and residents were told to flee to safety immediately, according to Fox 5 San Diego. Off ramps for Interstate 8 remain closed in both direction to Tavern Road and West Willows Road. 

The County of San Diego proclaimed a local emergency Friday.

Multiple structures burned as fire crews attempted to put out the flames, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. At least 400 acres of land were scorched by the so-called West Fire, according to Cal Fire. It was 5 percent contained as of Friday evening. 

The wildfire was fueled by dry conditions, moderate winds and temperatures well into the triple digits. Alpine, a town of about 14,000, is located about 25 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Colorado

A 52-year-old Danish man was arrested last week on charges of arson in connection to the Spring Creek Fire burning in southern Colorado. The blaze has scorched over 167 square miles and was 55 percent contained as of Sunday morning, according to Inciweb. It is now the third-largest wildfire in the state's history.

The 2002 Hayman Fire was the largest in Colorado's history, burning 215 square miles. The 2013 West Fork Complex Fire comes in second. It scorched 171 square miles.

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At least 130 homes have been destroyed by the fire, authorities told the AP. The fire is one of several burning in the state amid dry, hot and windy conditions. But despite the dangerous conditions, fire officials were confident that they were gaining control of the conflagration.

"We’re holding our own," Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team incident commander Shane Greer told residents, as reported by USA Today. "There’s some good firefighting going on out there."

A tornado was reported near Fairplay on the edge of a wildfire on Thursday afternoon at an altitude of roughly 10,000 feet, the AP also said.

The 416 Fire, which started June 1 and has scorched more than 84 square miles, was 50 percent contained on Sunday. 

Utah

A wildfire in central Utah has destroyed 90 structures, officials told the AP, and evacuation orders have been expanded to include more people yet again.

The Dollar Ridge Fire burning west of Timber Canyon and south of the Strawberry River was sparked last week. It has consumed more than 77 square miles and is 30 percent contained, according to Inciweb.

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"Extensive evacuations" were ordered in the Pinion Ride, Currant Creek Stream and Strawberry Pinnacles Junction area, KUTV reported. Authorities have expanded evacuations several times, and an estimated 1,000 homes are threatened by the fire, the AP reported.

Evacuees were told to go to the town of Duchesne, the report added. The state's Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 40 because of smoky conditions and urged drivers to seek alternate routes.

High winds and dry conditions have fueled the fire's rapid advance.

The cause of the fire is believed to be due to human activity.


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