The wildfires in the US state of California sparked by lightning strikes have more than doubled in size and claimed at least six lives and injured 43 fighters and civilians, reports said on Friday.
The conflagrations, which broke out over the last week and are among some of the largest in state history, have blackened an area larger than the US state of Rhode Island and destroyed more than 500 homes and other structures. Charred debris has even floated into Santa Cruz as flames advanced to the edge of the coastal city. In addition to the fatalities, 43 firefighters and civilians have been hurt.
Three groups of fires, called complexes, burning north, east and south of San Francisco have together scorched 780 square miles or 2,020 square kilometres. More than 12,000 firefighters assisted by helicopters and air tankers have been deployed to tackle the wildfires across California.
At least 100,000 people have been ordered to evacuate as the “deadly” blaze continues to spread. “We are not naive by any stretch about how deadly this moment is and why it is essential … that you heed evacuation orders and that you take them seriously,” the state governor Gavin Newsom told citizens.
The blazes, coming during a heatwave that has seen temperatures top 100 degrees, are taxing the state’s firefighting capacity but assistance from throughout the country was beginning to arrive, with 10 states sending fire crews, engines and aircraft to help, Newsom said.
“We have more people but it’s not enough. We have more air support but it’s still not enough and that’s why we need support from our federal partners,” the governor was quoted as saying by news agency Associated Press.
Newsom also thanked President Donald Trump’s administration for its help a day after criticising him for his remarks on the state’s wildfire prevention work. “While he may make statements publicly, the working relationship privately has been a very effective one,” he said.