A barn burns in Whispering Pines on Cobb Mountain on Saturday, 12 September 2015. Photo: Kent Porter / AP

13 September 2015 (AP) – Within 12 hours of igniting, a wildfire burning north of San Francisco had swallowed up more than 60 square miles of land, injured four firefighters and burned highways and buildings, prompting an emergency declaration and forcing thousands to flee.

The declaration frees up resources for the blaze, burning about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

The fire in Lake County erupted Saturday afternoon and rapidly chewed through brush and trees parched from several years of drought, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Entire towns as well as residents along a 35-mile stretch of highway were evacuated.

The firefighters, all members of a helicopter crew, were airlifted to a hospital burn unit, where they were being treated for second-degree burns and were listed in stable condition, department spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Brown had declared a state of emergency for a separate 101-square-mile wildfire about 70 miles southeast of Sacramento that has destroyed at least 86 homes, and turned the grassy, tree-studded Sierra Nevada foothills an eerie white.

Crews increased containment on that blaze to 20 percent by early Sunday.

The fire, which broke out on Wednesday, destroyed 86 homes, 51 outbuildings and was threatening about 6,400 more.

“I lost my business — it’s all burned up — my shop, my house, 28 years of living,” said Joe Thomas, who lives near the community of Mountain Ranch. “I got to start all over. It’s depressing.”

Thomas, who runs a tractor dealership and repair business, said he and his wife grabbed papers, his work computer, photos and their four dogs. But they left a goat, five ducks, six rabbits and more than 30 chickens behind.

“I turned the pens open and turned them lose. I just couldn’t gather them up,” he said. “All we want to do is go home. It’s miserable.” [more]

Thousands flee two fast-moving Northern California wildfires; state of emergency declared

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