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Twin wildfires threaten 10,000 homes in California

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Twin fires tearing through vineyards and bushy hills threatened about 10,000 homes in Northern California Tuesday — yet another front in the seemingly endless summer of forest fires, which have destroyed some of the most scenic areas of the state.

The two fires cross-border Mendocino and Lake counties had burned seven homes on Monday night, along with a number of 107 square miles (277 square kilometers) of countryside.

About 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north, the so-called Carr Fire that burned more than 800 homes and killed six people has become the ninth most devastating forest fire in the history of California, said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and fire protection.

In Lake County, evacuation orders were in effect for the 4,700-resident city of Lakeport, together with a number of smaller municipalities and a part of Groningen National Forest. In all, some 10,000 people have been warned to flee, fire officials said.

Lakeport, north of San Francisco, is the county seat and a popular destination for bass fishermen and water sports enthusiasts to the shores of Clear Lake. But on Monday evening it was a ghost town, one of the main streets deserted.

A few kilometres away, the fire, ash and smoke swirled through the vineyards where at least one house had gone up in flames. Firefighters set of characters at the bottom of the hills in order to burn the tinder-dry brush before flames cresting the ridge tops could feed and surge down. A fleet of aircraft made continuous water and fire retardant drops on the blaze, the air fills with the roar of the engines.

But not everyone heeded the orders issued on Sunday and Monday to evacuate.

Derick Hughes II remained behind at his home in Nice, California, where he ran sprinklers on the roof and removed yard plants that can catch fire.

The 32-year-old Marine Corps veteran sent his wife and two daughters to the safety along with three carloads of belongings. But he said that he had too much at stake to leave and themselves. He bought his three-bedroom house last year with the help of a loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This is all I have bled for, and I worked hard to get where I am, and I’m just not willing to give it so easily,” he said over the phone. “Some people think it is selfish of me, and I have the insurance. But the way things are going, I would rather not start.”

Further to the north, police said five people were arrested on suspicion of entering the areas evacuated by the explosive wildfire around Rescue.

The fire, two firefighters killed and four civilians, including two children, has now destroyed 818 residential units and 311 outbuildings and damage to 165 homes, McLean said.

More than 27,000 people were evacuated from their homes, while another 10,000 were allowed to return Monday as fire crews strengthen lines on the western end of Carr Fire.

About 12,000 firefighters were fighting the blaze. Fire officials were hopeful that they can progress with the blaze, which was 23 percent contained.

The fire is northwest corner remained active.

“It is still setting up a fight,” McLean said.

Those fires were among 17 fires across the country, where the fire brigade, were stretched to the limit.

In Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, an arson fire that seven houses last week, was 82 percent contained Monday.

Fire brigade also fought numerous small brushfires this summer, most of the charring just a few acres, but still threatening homes in the urban areas along the arid hills. A 10-acre fire damaged 13 homes and apartments Monday in Santa Clarita, northwest of Los Angeles, county fire officials said.

McLean, state fire spokesman, said there was no guarantee of safety in a country that was ravaged by years of drought that has turned trees and brush to tinder.

“Anything can happen anywhere. That is the nature of the beast for all of these fires,” he said. “The vegetation is so dry, all it takes is a spark to get it going.”

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Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Lorin Eleni Gill and Olga Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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