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California wildfires destroy at least 1,400 homes

Brush and oak trees flare up as firefighters work to contain a blaze that burns along State Highway 68 east of Laureles Grade in rural Salinas, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015.
Brush and oak trees flare up as firefighters work to contain a blaze that burns along State Highway 68 east of Laureles Grade in rural Salinas, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Monterey County Herald via AP

At least 1,400 homes have been destroyed by two Northern California wildfires and thousands more remain threatened, fire officials said Sunday.

Damage assessment teams have counted 888 homes burned in Lake County, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Berlant said teams are getting access to affected areas as firefighters make progress but that the count is far from over.

The fire, which killed at least three people and charred 117 square miles, was 53 percent contained. Another 6,400 home remain under threat.

“Our damage assessment team continues to go in and count home by home, structure by structure but they still have a ways to go before they are finished,” Berlant said.

 

Another 535 homes were destroyed by a separate blaze that killed at least two people and that has burned 110 square miles in the Sierra Nevada foothills, about 170 miles southeast. That blaze was 70 percent contained Sunday but continued to threaten thousands of structures.

Residents of Middletown, the area hardest hit by the massive wildfire in Lake County, were allowed to return home Saturday afternoon. Evacuation orders for other areas in Lake County remained.

The Lake County fire tore through 62 square miles in 12 hours, causing thousands of residents to flee after it ignited a week ago. About 19,000 people were ordered to evacuate.

A weekend of heat had descended on the wildfires after several favorable days, raising fears that major gains could be undone.

 

That makes it essential that the smoldering remains of the two giant blazes be dealt with as quickly and thoroughly as possible, Scott Mclean, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.

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