RESCUE, California. – Carol Smith and her family walked in their ward hill Thursday to find that her home was reduced to mangled metal and piles of stones after a massive Northern California wildfire leveled more than 1,000 homes.
“I’m waiting to probably break down any minute here. Pretty overwhelming,” Smith said as the family stood on the sidewalk, staring in disbelief at what is left of their house in the city of Redding.
The family, who wore masks and saw a sign warning of hazardous materials, receiving hugs and pats on the back from the disaster relief volunteers who met them. Pastors and mental health experts were also sent to the districts to assist those returning home.
“We almost lost everything,” said Smith, 77, who has lived in the neighborhood with her 80-year-old husband of 29 years. “We are kind of anxious to get. I see a few pictures in the backyard, that maybe we can survive.”
The fire in the Rescue area, 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco, is the largest of 18 fires burning in California. Firefighters were having some success keeping flames away from populated areas, and officials began allowing some residents to return to their neighborhoods.
But tens of thousands of others were still under evacuation orders.
The fire has killed six people, including two firefighters, and destroyed 1,060 homes and nearly 500 other buildings, including businesses, warehouses, and warehouses, the officials said. It is the sixth most devastating forest fire in state history.
The fire, which is almost double the size of Sacramento, was only partly absorbed after more than a week.
“Unstable conditions, changing winds, steep slopes and dry fuels continue to challenge firefighters,” a state fire update warned, and notes that the 35-mph gusts were expected on ridgetops that could whip up the flames.
More than 13,000 firefighters battle flowers with the help of the crew from as far away as Florida.
Just a month in the budget year, California has already spent more than a quarter of the annual fire budget, at least $125 million, the Ministry of Forestry and fire protection spokesman Mike Mohler said.
After years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, huge chunks of the forests, and chaparral, and grasslands become tinder that makes it possible even a small spark to explode in a scorching blaze, authorities said.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s repeated predictions of fire officials that California can expect a future of devastating fires, partly as a result of climate change. He told reporters Wednesday that “nature is very powerful, and we are not on the side of nature.”
Southeast of Redding, a glow moved deeper into the Mendocino National Forest, “an area with some hunting cabins and a number of private property, but no cities,” Lake County Sheriff’s Lt. Corey Paulich said.
Twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties had burned 14 homes and threatened 12,000 more.
A 100 square miles (259 square kilometres) fire near Yosemite National Park prompted the evacuation orders for the community of Wawona in the park, which is less than 200 inhabitants.
Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park are closed for tourists since 25 July because of the heavy smoke from the fire that burned nearly 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) and is only partially included.
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.
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