Fire approaches a home near Lower Lake, California, Friday, 31 July 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures, and gusting winds. Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

By Jeff Chiu and Haven Daley
1 August 2015

LOWER LAKE, California (Associated Press) – Blazes raging in forests and woodlands across California have taken the life of a firefighter and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes as an army of firefighters continue to battle them from the air and the ground.

Twenty-three large fires, many sparked by lightning strikes, were burning across Northern California on Saturday, said state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant. Some 8,000 firefighters were attempting to subdue them, something made incredibly difficult by several years of drought that have dried out California.

"The conditions and fire behavior we're seeing at 10 in the morning is typically what we'd see in late afternoon in late August and September," said Nick Schuler, a division chief with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "But because of the dry conditions, because of the drought-stricken vegetation accompanied by the steep terrain and winds, we're seeing fire activity that's abnormal for this time of year."

In the Modoc National Forest, about a hundred miles south of Oregon, David Ruhl, an engine captain from South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest, was killed fighting a fast-moving blaze. He had vanished Thursday while fighting the 800-acre fire and his body wasn't recovered until Friday.

The biggest fire was in the Lower Lake area north of San Francisco where firefighters had to wade through thick smoke and flying embers to turn loose horses, goats and other livestock in rural neighborhoods as their owners fled to safety. The fast-moving fire had burned three homes by Friday and was threatening 450 other structures. Only 5 percent contained, it had spread across 28 square miles and was growing quickly.

The fires prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for California on Friday. As part of the order, he activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery. […]

Engine Captain David Ruhl of South Dakota was killed battling the fire that broke out Thursday in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon.

The firefighter had vanished Thursday and his body wasn't found until Friday. U.S. Forest Service officials didn't immediately reveal the cause of death. [more]

Firefighter killed, hundreds flee as California blazes burn


Firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California, on 23 July 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. Photo: Robert Galbraith / REUTERS

By Curtis Skinner and Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Bill Trott
31 July 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California's governor declared a state of emergency on Friday as a string of wildfires raged across the state and a firefighter was killed battling a blaze in drought-parched forest, officials said.

The firefighter, David Ruhl of Rapid City, South Dakota, was on temporary assignment in Northern California, where the brunt of 18 large fires burning across the state have destroyed homes and structures and temporarily displaced hundreds of people, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Ruhl was battling the so-called "Frog Fire," which broke out on Thursday near the town of Adin in the state's northeast, when he was killed on duty, the Forest Service said.

"This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said in a statement.

Experts have predicted a long and volatile summer wildfire season in California, in its fourth year of crippling drought.

Governor Jerry Brown's state of emergency will help mobilize additional firefighting and disaster response resources.

"California's severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox," Brown said in a statement. "Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines and we'll do everything we can to help them."

Crews on Friday continued to struggle to gain control of a rapidly growing wildfire that burned largely unchecked in Northern California's ranch country, destroying three homes and forcing about 500 people to flee.

The blaze has nearly doubled in size from late Thursday morning to scorch some 15,000 acres (60 square km) of California's rural Lake County. [more]

California governor declares state of emergency over raging wildfires

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