Written by Associated Press
(AP) — A massive wildfire in rural Northern California has exploded in size and forced evacuations in hot, dry weather that is sweeping through several Western states where blazes are threatening thousands of homes.
The fast-moving fire that started over the weekend northwest of Sacramento grew dramatically to about 70 square miles (180 square kilometers) by Monday, largely burning out of control in rugged terrain with a few cattle and horse ranches and sending smoke and ash as far south as San Francisco.
It threatened 100 buildings. The fire about 100 miles (62 miles) northeast of San Francisco spread as strong winds pushed smoke south, dusting cars and homes with a thin layer of gray ash. No injuries were reported, and the exact number of people evacuated was unclear.
The hot conditions fueling the fire and others across the West are expected to persist through the end of July in Utah and parts of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, U.S. fire officials said. The Southwest, which has been struggling with drought, should get enough rain in early July to reduce the risk of major blazes in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, the National Interagency Fire Center said Sunday.
The 70-square-mile California blaze was just 3 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. In comparison, a deadly wildfire that destroyed whole neighborhoods in Sonoma County last year burned 57 square miles (147 square kilometers).
In Colorado, more than 2,500 homes were under evacuation orders as firefighters battle more than a half dozen wildfires. Most of the evacuations in effect were due to a 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) wildfire in southern Colorado that authorities believe was human-caused.
Jesper Joergensen, 52, of Denmark, was arrested on arson charges, the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office said.
Investigators have not released other details except to say that they don’t think he intentionally started the fire.
Immigration officials have requested that they be allowed to take custody of him if he’s released from jail.
People have fled about 570 homes near a 2-square-mile (6-square-kilometer) fire that started Friday west of Colorado Springs. About 360 children at a camp also had to be evacuated by the Chateau Fire.
In neighboring Wyoming, about 150 firefighters tried to contain a wildfire burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest near the Colorado border. It has burned about 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) since June 10. The fire is about 80 percent contained but flared up in the last week, prompting authorities to advise some residents to prepare to evacuate.
A wildfire burning in hot and dry conditions in Utah has forced the evacuation of about seven to 10 seasonal cabins near a popular fishing reservoir. The homes that are threatened about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Salt Lake City are not primary residences.
The fire has scorched about 10 square miles (28 square kilometers) near Strawberry Reservoir and officials believe it is human-caused but are investigating, said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands.