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California wildfire home losses leap as evacuees return to torched houses

Aug 26 (Reuters) - California firefighters made progress on Wednesday in containing monster blazes in the San Francisco Bay Area, but inspectors and returning homeowners reported a jump in the number of buildings destroyed by the fires, which have already killed seven people across the state.

Cooler temperatures helped firefighters’ efforts to control the blazes, but state wildfire authority Cal Fire reported the numbers of homes and structures destroyed by some wildfires rose by over 60 percent.

A wildfire in redwood rainforests north of Santa Cruz was one-fifth contained but incinerated 538 structures, Cal Fire said. Police are looking for a missing person who possibly returned home after being ordered to evacuate.

“Your house in the redwoods, by the creek and ocean, lasted nearly 19 years,” Marine biologist Wallace Nichols wrote to his daughter in a letter published by Outside magazine. “All that remains standing is the chimney and fireplace that warmed us as we slept—it was built tall of stone to last for millennia.” Across Northern and Central California over 15,000 firefighters from half a dozen states battled two dozen large fires sparked by a siege of over 14,000 dry-lightning strikes since Aug. 15 brought on by record temperatures. California has seen around 1.4 million acres of the state burn so far in 2020, an area 25 times larger than this time last year, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday. He blamed “a different climate” brought on by a rise in average temperatures.

In the north Bay Area, nearly 1,000 homes and structures, many in farms and vineyards, were incinerated in the wine country of Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties.

Television images showed piles of rubble and gray ash where homes had stood after the LNU Lightning Complex fire raged across hillsides around Lake Berryessa, about 40 miles west of Sacramento.

That fire, the third-largest in California history, jumped to 33% containment overnight as nearly two dozen bulldozers and around 1,700 firefighters carved earth containment lines and set controlled burns to create fire breaks.

In the south Bay Area evacuation orders were lifted for communities in Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Alameda counties where the state’s second largest fire in history was 25 percent contained after burning an area larger than Los Angeles. (Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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