Thu, 21 Nov 2019

Firefighters Make Slow Progress in Containing California Wildfires

Voice of America
13 Oct 2019, 05:36 GMT+10

Firefighters have made progress containing wind-driven wildfires in the western U.S. state of California that has claimed one life, destroyed or damaged dozens of structures, and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Branden Silverman said Saturday morning the blaze in Los Angeles County, named the Saddleridge fire, had been 19-percent contained overnight, thanks to slightly cooler temperatures and lighter winds. The blaze damaged or destroyed at least 31 structures, including homes.

The fire, located in the San Fernando Valley in Northwestern Los Angeles County, was only 13-percent contained on Friday, after burning more than 3,000 hectares, officials said.

Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations Saturday of some 23,000 homes in an area covering about 100,000 residents.

The cause of the Saddleridge fire has not been determined, but investigators said they were following up on a report of flames from a power line when the fire started Thursday night.

To the east of the Saddleridge fire, another blaze swept through a Riverside County mobile home park, destroying dozens of homes. Authorities said that fire, which has burned about 330 hectares, had been 25 percent contained Saturday.

Red flag warnings remain in effect until 6 p.m. local time Saturday, even though the dry Santa Ana winds from nearby mountains that fueled the fires have died down and were expected to continue to weaken throughout Saturday.

Officials said one man died of a heart attack while speaking with firefighters who were battling the Riverside fire early Friday.

In Northern California, electricity has been restored to 98-percent of the nearly 2 million customers who had their power cut off earlier this week by Pacific Gas & Electric in an effort to prevent wildfires.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared emergencies Friday for Los Angeles and Riverside counties because of the fires. The governor's office said it has received a federal grant to help with firefighting costs.

More than 1,000 firefighters from numerous departments were battling the fires from the air and ground.

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