California’s largest fire torches homes

INDIAN FALLS (AP) — Flames racing through rugged terrain in Northern California destroyed multiple homes on Saturday as the state’s largest wildfire intensified and numerous other blazes battered the United States (US) West.

The Dixie fire, which started July 14, had already levelled over a dozen houses and other structures when it tore through the tiny community of Indian Falls after dark.

An updated damage estimate was not immediately available, though fire officials said the blaze has charred more than 181,000 acres in Plumas and Butte counties and was 20 per cent contained.

The fire was burning in a remote area with limited access, hampering firefighters’ efforts as it charged eastward, fire officials said. It has prompted evacuation orders in several small communities and along the west shore of Lake Almanor, a popular area getaway.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest wildfire, southern Oregon’s Bootleg fire, was nearly halfway surrounded on Saturday as more than 2,200 crew members worked to corral it in the heat and wind, fire officials said. The growth of the sprawling blaze had slowed, but thousands of homes remained threatened on its eastern side, authorities said.

“This fire is resistant to stopping at dozer lines,” fire behaviour analyst Jim Hanson said in a news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry. “With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly re-evaluate their control lines and look for contingency options.”

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for four northern counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property”. The proclamation opened the way for more state support.

Flames consume vehicles as the Dixie Fire tears through the Indian Falls community in Plumas County, California. PHOTO: AP