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

By Veronica Rocha, Paige St. John, Frank Shyong, and Hailey Branson-Potts
22 September 2015

SACRAMENTO, California (Los Angeles Times) – As firefighters continued to advance on the deadly wildfires in Northern California, President Barack Obama declared a major disaster for the Valley fire.

The move frees up federal assistance for home repairs, replacements and other aid. California Gov. Jerry Brown requested the declaration this week.

Meanwhile, authorities continued their efforts to locate two men who went missing in the Valley fire.

Sheriff's officials said they are now using cadaver dogs to assist in the search for Robert Litchman, 61, of Middletown, and Robert Fletcher, 66, of Cobb.

Authorities remain "hopeful that these people are relocated and returned and reunited with their loved ones," Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said.

The Valley fire — which destroyed an estimated 1,238 single-family homes, 23 multi-family homes and hundreds of other structures — is now the third most-destructive wildfire in California history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. As of Tuesday morning, it had burned 76,067 acres and was 75 percent contained.

Three people are confirmed to have died in the Valley fire, which started Sept. 12. […]

Billowing smoke rises above a residence as the Butte Fire burns in San Andreas, California, on 11 September 2015. Photo: Noah Berger / REUTERS

The Butte fire was reported to be 80 percent contained and had burned 70,868 acres, according to Cal Fire. That blaze, which has destroyed an estimated 545 residences and hundreds of other structures, is the seventh-most destructive wildfire in California history, according to Cal Fire.

Two deaths have been attributed to the Butte fire.

Brown on Monday asked Obama for a national disaster declaration that would open the door for federal aid to victims of the Valley and Butte fires. In his request, Brown called the wildland fires "megafires" that he said "expand quickly and unpredictably, thriving on dead trees, dry vegetation and wind conditions."

"Four years of extreme drought conditions have parched our landscapes and created millions of dead trees that have increased California's vulnerability to these types of fires," Brown wrote.

Both the Valley and Butte fires continue to threaten thousands of structures, according to Cal Fire. [more]

President Obama declares major disaster in deadly California wildfire



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