Thousands forced to evacuate raging California wildfires

Thousands are forced to flee their homes and a dozen buildings are destroyed as wildfires spanning 12 square miles rage across rural California

  • The Pawnee Fire began on Saturday near the community of Clearlake Oaks and has destroyed 12 buildings 
  • It covered 12 square miles and had not been contained as of Sunday with hundreds more buildings in danger 
  • Officials told everyone in the Spring Valley area where around 3,000 people live to evacuate their homes 

Wind-driven wildfires destroyed buildings and threatened hundreds of others as they raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.

The Pawnee Fire, which broke out on Saturday near the community of Clearlake Oaks, has destroyed 12 buildings and threatened an additional 600. 

As of Sunday, there was no containment and it burned across about 12 square miles (31 sq km). Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the Spring Valley area, where about 3,000 people live.

Fire protection chief Jonathan Cox said: ‘What we’re stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return.

A firefighter in California battles a wildfire which raced across dry brush in the rural northern part of the state

The Pawnee Fire wildfire is pictured burning brightly north-east of Clearlake Oaks, California, early on Sunday 

A helicopter from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection helps to battle the wildfire on Sunday 

The fire burns on the top of a hill north-east of Clearlake Oaks, California, early on Sunday morning 

Kevin Clark helps to protect his brother’s store as a wildfire burned and surrounded the area in Spring Valley, California 

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    ‘This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It’s a good reminder that fire season is upon us.’

    Erratic wind and heat gripping a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border drove the flames, which were north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.


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    Farther north, a fire spanning about three-quarters of a mile in Tehama County destroyed ‘multiple residential and commercial buildings,’ Cal Fire said. But firefighters appeared to be making good progress – the Stoll Fire was halfway contained and some evacuees were allowed to return home, authorities said.

    A further fire in Tehama County consumed 5.5 square miles (14 square kilometers), but no buildings were reported burned. The so-called Lane Fire threatened 200 structures and some homes had been evacuated, Cox said. It was 10 percent contained.

    A Cal Fire incident management team discusses the plan to battle a wildfire in Spring Valley, California, on Sunday 

    Horses roam in a pasture as a Cal Fire helicopter flies overhead to battle the wildfire in Spring Valley, California, on Sunday 

    An inmate crew helps to battle a fire as smoke darkens the sky in Spring Valley, California, on Sunday 

    Firefighters pick up a hose with Cal Fire vehicles by their side as they battle the wildfire in Spring Valley, California 

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      A fire in neighboring Shasta County grew to 1.6 square miles (4.14 sq km) and was 20 percent contained. The so-called Creek Fire had damaged no structures but did prompt evacuations.

      The cause of each blaze was under investigation Sunday. No one was reported hurt.

      More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the Pawnee Fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment up close.

      ‘It’s kind of the worst possible combination,’ Cox said.

      Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back. 

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