Flames from the Butte fire rise over a pasture in Mountain Ranch, California, on 12 September 2015. Photo: Noah Berger / Reuters

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Olga R. Rodriguez
13 September 2015

MIDDLETOWN, California (Associated Press) – At least 100 homes were destroyed by a wildfire in Northern California's Lake County that raced through dry brush and exploded in size within hours, officials said Sunday. The devastation comes after a separate wildfire to the southeast destroyed at least 81 homes.

California Department of Forest Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says wind gusts that reached up to 30 miles per hour sent embers raining down on homes and made it hard for firefighters to stop the Lake County blaze from advancing. Four firefighters were injured Saturday while battling the flames.

There's no official tally of the destruction yet because firefighters are focused on new evacuation orders and on residents' safety, he said.

"This has been a tragic reminder to us of the dangers this drought is posing," he said.

People were ordered Sunday to evacuate Clear Lake Riviera, a town with about 3,000 residents, and other areas near the blaze, Cal Fire said.

Residents streamed from Middletown Sunday morning and had to dodge smoldering telephone poles, downed power lines and fallen trees as they drove through billowing smoke.

George Escalona told The Associated Press that parts of his town, including his home, have burned to the ground.

In some areas of town "there is nothing but burned houses, burned cars," Escalano said, adding that he has nothing left but the clothes he was wearing. [more]

Official: At least 100 homes destroyed by California blaze

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