July 12, 2017 / 11:26 AM / 2 months ago

Firefighters gain on several wildfires in California

REUTERS - Firefighters in California have gained ground in their battle to contain several wildfires that have forced the evacuation of thousands of people, but forecasters warned the hot and dry conditions in the U.S. West would continue over the coming days.

In Northern California, firefighters had managed to contain over half a 5,800-acre (2,350-hectare) wildfire by late on Tuesday, up from 35 percent a day earlier, fire service officials said.

The blaze has displaced 4,000 people and destroyed over 100 structures, including 41 homes since it began five days ago.

More than 50 uncontained large fires are burning across the U.S. West. So far this year, more than twice as much land mass in California has been charred by fires compared to the same time last year, said Heather Williams, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Temperatures in the region will top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) this week, with only scattered showers to possibly quell some flames, said meteorologist Brian Hurley of the National Weather Service.

At a local assistance center, resident Carolyn Opalenik said her house had been destroyed.

Burned ornaments lie among charred trees near Camp Whittier outside Santa Ynez, California, U.S. July 10, 2017. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire/Handout via REUTERS

“It’s all gone. We have pictures, and it’s all gone,” she told the Chico Enterprise-Record newspaper.

In southern California, firefighters had managed to contain 60 percent of the 29,000-acre (11,736-hectares) Alamo Fire, from 20 percent a day earlier.

Slideshow (2 Images)

About 200 people were under evacuation orders because of the fire, which started on Thursday in Santa Barbara County, the county sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

Another fire near Lake Cachuma forced the evacuation of thousands of campers, including some who left behind their trailers in the rush.

Dozens of residents were also evacuated when the fire broke out on Saturday, officials said.

By Tuesday, firefighters had contained 48 percent of the blaze, up from 25 percent a day earlier. The fire has burned more than 10,000 acres (4,047 hectares).

Fires in the western Canadian province of British Columbia have forced 14,000 people from their homes and disrupted logging and mining operations.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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