Several fast-moving fires in northern California forced thousands of people to flee their homes Sunday, NBC News reported. Hundreds of buildings have already been lost to the blaze, which have also hospitalized four firefighters with second-degree burns.
The Valley Fire is located in Lake County northwest of Sacramento and was spotted early Saturday afternoon as it quickly spread through dry brush and trees that have been devastated by several years of ongoing drought, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported.
According to NBC, the fire grew from between 50 and 400 acres at 4 p.m. Saturday, to more than 40,000 acres at 1:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. E.T.) Sunday, leaving many residents only minutes to evacuate with only their lives. Due to the enormity of the blaze, officials have not been able to accurately assess the damage, but Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake County Sunday as thousands of residents continue to flee the fires.
“Spokesman David Schew said the fire will rank as one of the worst he’s seen in terms of devastation during his 28 years with Cal Fire.”
A Tale of Three Blazes
According to the Sacramento Bee, the Butte Fire – which began last Wednesday and has already burned up more than 65,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties – also caused massive damage and forced thousands to flee on Sunday, destroying at least 81 homes and 51 outbuildings. As of Sunday night, it was reported to be at around 20 percent containment.
“The bushes, the trees have absolutely no moisture in them, and the humidities are so low that we are seeing these ‘fire starts’ just erupt into conflagrations,” stated Mark Ghilarducci, director of the governor’s office of emergency services. “The fires are spreading faster than I have seen in my 30 years.”
Evacuees are holing up in hotels, county fairgrounds, and RV parks in the region that have been turned into temporary evacuation centers. No fatalities have been reported from the fires, but numerous law enforcement officials from regional departments are busy going door to door and have been dispatched to provide traffic support and protection for evacuated neighborhoods.
More than 5,000 firefighters have reported to fight this latest round of California fires, which also includes the Rough Fire in the mountains east of Fresno, currently the largest active fire in the state with more than 130,000 acres burned. That fire has already passed through ancient sequoia groves that are home to several famed sequoia trees, including the General Grant tree (the world’s second-largest), and the Boole Tree (the world’s sixth-largest), both of which survived the blaze.
[Photo by David McNew / Stringer / Getty Images]