LOS ANGELES • Crews battling two dozen tenacious wildfires in California have rushed in reinforcements to use a window of humidity and cooler temperatures, to try to quench the blazes before a forecast spell of drier weather.
More than 10,000 firefighters tackled the fires that have forced thousands to flee their homes and ravaged large tracts of land in the most populous US state.
The biggest blaze in northern California, dubbed the Rocky Fire, has drawn in 3,478 firefighters. The fire has pushed through containment lines, jumped a highway - and even managed to create its own weather system, said the Los Angeles Times.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire) spokesman Jason Shanley said: "It's defying all odds. Thirty-year, 40-year veterans have never seen this before."
The week-old blaze has forced more than 13,000 people to evacuate their homes in Colusa, Lake and Yolo counties north of state capital Sacramento, where it has consumed more than 27,000ha of land and destroyed two dozen homes.
Elsewhere new fires continued to pop up and quickly spread, helped by one of the worst droughts in California on record. "Tinder-dry conditions from the drought continue to allow wildfires to burn at an explosive rate," said CAL Fire. The state brought in extra crews from southern California to the hard-hit north, as well as water-bomber planes from Colorado, Mr Berlant said.
Thunderstorms expected today tend to increase the threat of fires, often bringing lightning but virtually no water. California is in the throes of a severe drought, with much of the state parched.
In the north, some forests were completely engulfed by the infernos, forcing the closure of several stretches of highway. In areas where fires had been put out, charred cars dotted some roads and trees were left smouldering on the blackened earth.
Police have arrested a 34-year-old woman in Redding, north of Sacramento, alleging that she started 14 roadside fires in the past week, although none of them grew into the 22 major wildfires.