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Wildfires rage in California as heat wave bakes much of the Western US

Firefighters are working in triple-digit temperatures in attempt to combat the more than 20 active blazes currently burning across the state.
California Wildfires
Posted at 10:22 AM, Jul 08, 2024

Dry vegetation, stifling heat, gusty winds and low humidity are helping supercharge wildfires in California as at least 21 blazes are actively burning across the state.

The Lake Fire near the Los Padres National Forest has already burned more than 13,000 acres and was zero percent contained as of Monday morning, according to CalFire.

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Santa Barbara County fire captain Scott Safechuck said they have three helicopters and 10 air tankers in place as crews race to try to contain the flames. However, rugged terrain paired with the extreme heat blanketing much of the Western U.S. has hampered firefighting efforts.

"That is steep terrain back up in there that's hard to get to," Safechuck said while pointing to a burning hillside. "We have hand crews that are here. We have to hike those hills, put in hose lays, as well as we need that aircraft to knock down that fire in front of them."

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office has issued evacuation orders for the area as strong winds continue to fuel the flames. One local resident said she could see the smoke and flames approaching her home.

"It's so out of control," said Joy Chamberlain. "You just see there's just little fingers of fire in all different directions."

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Elsewhere in California, more than 30,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in Butte County — north of Sacramento — as the Thompson Fire continues to rage. It has burned more than 3,700 acres and some 1,700 firefighters are working in scorching triple-digit heat to battle the blaze, which is now more than 95% contained.

It's been an unusually active wildfire season in California this summer. According to CalFire, more than 150,000 acres have burned in the state so far this year, compared to 8,000 acres at this same time last year.