Wildfire erupts in northern California, forcing evacuations

LOS ANGELES/DENVER (REUTERS) - A wildfire in northern California destroyed buildings and forced hundreds of people to evacuate from nearby communities, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.

The Klamathon Fire began on Thursday (July 5) and, within hours, quickly grew from 1,000 to 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in an advisory.

The fire destroyed an unknown number of structures and forced residents in the small communities of Hornbrook, Hilt and Colestein Valley to flee as flames crossed Interstate 5 near the California and Oregon border, local media reported.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area, allowing state resources to be devoted to fighting the wildfire and keeping people safe.

The Klamathon Fire was one of more than three dozen wildfires that firefighters were battling in California and across the US West during the unusually active fire season.

Fires burned through nearly 2.5 million acres in the United States from Jan 1 through Monday, above the average of about 2.3 million acres for the same period over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre.

Firefighting efforts across the region has been hampered by blistering temperatures, low humidity and erratic winds, officials warned.


Crews made tried on Thursday to cut containment lines around the County Fire, which has already burned across some 135 square miles in Northern California. Nine structures have been destroyed and some 100 homes were said to be in danger.

That fire, which broke out on Saturday about 45 miles northwest of Sacramento, so far has largely burned away from populated areas and was 33 per cent contained, officials said.

In Colorado, nine major wildfires have burned more than 198,000 acres, according to the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center.

Crews battling the Spring Fire got a respite from the hot temperatures on Thursday, with rain forecast to move over the region, although heavy downpours could trigger flash flooding over the burn scar, according to InciWeb, a federal wildfire website.

Near Aspen, the Lake Christine fire has covered more than 5,000 acres and destroyed three homes in the town of EL Jebel, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said. The fire has not been contained and some 500 people have been ordered to evacuate.