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California firefighters face huge wildfires, thousands evacuated

The Caldor Fire, just 5 percent contained, has become the nation’s number one priority for firefighting resources, says the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

US Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters look for hotspots after a flare-up in Pollock Pines, California, US, August 23, 2021. (Reuters)

More than 13,500 firefighters have been working to contain a dozen large California wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to flee to safety.

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After an extensive review of fire damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested a presidential major disaster declaration for eight counties, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, told a briefing near Sacramento.

If approved, the declaration would provide a wide range of assistance including housing, food aid, unemployment and governmental emergency costs, Ghilarducci said.

Nearly 43,000 Californians were under under evacuation orders and more than 500 households were in shelters, he said.

New concerns were developing at the explosive Caldor Fire southwest of Lake Tahoe, the famed alpine lake straddling the California-Nevada state line and surrounded by peaks of the Sierra Nevada and resort communities.

Caldor dire is no 1 priority

The Caldor Fire, just 5 percent contained, has become the nation’s number one priority for firefighting resources, said Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin,” Porter said.

“We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin but we do need to also be aware that is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning.”

The Caldor Fire has incinerated more than 430 square kilometres (166 square miles) of El Dorado National Forest and continuing assessments showed 447 buildings destroyed. More than 17,000 structures were still under threat.

In Northern California, where most of the blazes are burning, there were no red flag warnings for critical conditions but the seven-day outlook called for moderate fire danger.

In Southern California, meanwhile, moist ocean air has been keeping skies cloudy and temperatures cooler than normal well into each day.

California’s fires were among more than 90 large, active blazes in the US on Monday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

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