Some heat relief forecast as California fires rage


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California firefighters battling several wildfires that have destroyed dozens of structures and forced thousands of residents to evacuate will get some relief as temperatures cool from scorching levels later this week, the National Weather Service said.

“Starting Monday we’re going to see a gradual cool down, as we shave just a few degrees off each day until about midweek it gets to something like normal, in the mid-90s (Fahrenheit) inland and 80s at the coast,” said Jim Hayes of the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“Today it’s going to be another miserable, hot, dry day,” he said early Sunday, noting that temperatures in some areas inland will hit triple digits.

Santa Barbara County officials declared a local emergency on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire destroyed 20 homes and other structures and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen major blazes burning across the U.S. West, broke out on Friday evening near the beach community of Goleta, California, south of Santa Barbara, and raced through the seaside foothills.

The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power, prompting the emergency declaration which frees additional funds for the firefighting effort.

As of early Sunday, the Holiday Fire burned through more than 100 acres and was 80 percent contained, officials posted on the internet.

Dozens of blazes have broken out across the western United States, fanned by scorching heat, winds and low humidity in a particularly intense fire season.

This year’s fires had burned more than 2.9 million acres (1.17 million hectares) through Friday, already more than the annual average of about 2.4 million acres (971,000 hectares)over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Friday, the remains of an unidentified person were found near a home burned to the ground by the Klamathon Fire, which broke out on Thursday near California’s border with Oregon. It marked the first fatality of the fire season in California.

The Klamathon, which has destroyed 72 structures and blackened nearly 30,500 acres (12,340 hectares), was 25 percent contained as of Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire.

Elsewhere in Northern California, the County Fire has charred 88,525 acres (35824.8 hectares) in sparsely populated wooded areas of Napa and Yolo Counties.

Some 2,858 firefighters faced with inaccessible terrain, high temperatures and low humidity, were battling the fire, which was 57 percent contained. It has destroyed 15 structures, damaged three and threatened 96.

In Colorado, officials said fire crews had made “much progress” battling the Spring Creek Fire, which broke out on June 27 and has consumed 106,985 acres (43,295 hectares). It was 43 percent contained on Saturday, the officials said.

Santa Barbara County Firefighter spray water on flames at a home at the site of a wildfire in Goleta, California, U.S., July 6, 2018 in this image released on social media. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire/via REUTERS

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Andrea Ricci

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