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Lightning-sparked huge fire burns to edge of 3 small California towns

© AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Firefighter Chuck Mitchell hoses down a hot spot of the Ponderosa Fire near Viola, Calif., Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. More than 1,400 fire fighters are battling the fire that has destroyed seven homes, burned 23 square miles. The fire that started Saturday is just 5 percent contained.
Aided by a shift in wind direction, firefighters made a stand against a huge lightning-sparked wildfire burning on the edge of three small Northern California towns. The blaze, which has destroyed seven homes and threats continued to threaten thousands of homes, as fearful residents sought safety miles away at an emergency shelter. The fire that started Saturday had grown to more than 30 square miles and was 35 percent contained Tuesday morning.

"All we can do is pray," evacuee Jerry Nottingham told reporters. Still, with more firefighters arriving on the scene and shifting winds helping to keep the blaze away from homes, officials said fire crews were able to improve their lines around the wildfire. "We definitely made some good progress today building around this fire," state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said late Monday.

The fast-moving Ponderosa Fire was one of many burning across the West, where lightning, dry temperatures and gusting winds have brought an early start to fire season.

Nearly 1,900 firefighters were battling the blaze in rugged, densely forested terrain as it threatened 3,500 homes in the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola, about 170 miles north of Sacramento.

"These are the largest number of homes we've had threatened so far this year," state fire spokesman Berlant said. "The grass, brush and timber up here are so dry, and once the lightning with no rain struck, the flames began to spread quickly."

Melted satellite dishes, the remains of burned furniture and charred refrigerators could be seen in some homes in the rural area.


Firefighters Battle to Contain Wildfire on Greek Island

While thick black smoke billows from the mountains and acres of forest go up in flames, these two girls can only watch helplessly from the beach.

The Greek holiday island of Chios has been hit by wildfire, with villages evacuated and tourists forced to flee as strong winds fan the flames.

More than 200 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers are battling to control the devastating blaze, which began in the early hours of Friday.

At least three villages and tourist resorts have been evacuated and residents can only watch from the beach as fire consume the island.


Fire crews battle wildfires blazing across Western US

© Kari Greer/US Forest Service/Reuters

Flames from the Trinity Ridge Fire in the Boise National Forest engulf trees near Pine and Featherville, Idaho, Aug. 17.
As a flurry of wildfires rage across the Western United States, firefighters on Monday were trying to gain control of the 15,000-acre Ponderosa fire in Northern California that began over the weekend.

Firefighters have only been able to contain five percent of the blaze, which is burning across both Tehama and Shasta counties.

The fire began on Saturday after lighting strikes hit the densely forested area about 170 miles north of Sacramento, according to The Associated Press. So far, it has engulfed more than 23 square miles near the Northern Californian towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola, AP reported.

Seven structures have been destroyed. CAL FIRE spokesman Daniel Berlant said at least 3,000 homes remain threatened along with more than 300 other structures, AP said.


Thousands Told to Evacuate as New Fire Threatens California Towns; Blazes Rage in Washington, Idaho

© Idaho Statesmen, Kathrine Jones/The Associated Press
Pat Christensen, left, and his wife Cyndie sit on the steps of the Featherville Cafe Saturday Aug.18,2012 as smoke from Trinity Bridge fire engulfs the area.
San Francisco - Thousands of people have been told to leave their homes as a wildfire burning Sunday in thick forest threatened rural communities in far Northern California.

The fire that sparked around 11:30 a.m. Saturday has destroyed four homes and consumed nearly 11 square miles near the towns of Manton, Shingleton, and Viola, fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. About 3,500 homes spread out across a rural area along the border of Tehama and Shasta counties are threatened, he said.

"A good majority are immediately threatened and a good number are in the path of the fire," Berlant said Sunday. "We will be battling it hard today to protect as many of those homes as possible."

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but officials said it started after a series of lightning strikes in the area.

John Cluff, 42, told the Redding Searchlight that he was forced to flee his home before the evacuations were issued. He went back for his dog about 3:30 p.m.

"The fire basically chased me out of the property," he said. "All I could see was black smoke and flames."

The Shasta County Sheriff's Department has declared a State of Emergency for the county, with evacuations expected to continue through Sunday. The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center in Redding, about 35 miles to the west of the fire.

The fire, burning in a rugged area of thick forests about 170 miles north of Sacramento, is one of handful of new fires burning in Northern California.

Bizarro Earth

Wildfires hit Greek holiday island

Greek fire-fighters battled fierce blazes on the island of Chios on Saturday as billowing smoke forced the evacuations of three villages.

Citizens of the village of Lithi find refuge at the beach as a wildfire burns in the mountains on the island of Chios, Greece
Ten water bombers and five helicopters were deployed as 50 fire-fighters and almost 80 army troops worked to contain the wildfire on the eastern island. They also used 17 fire engines and were backed by 40 volunteers.

Fanned by strong winds of up 40 miles per hour, the wildfire started in the early hours of Saturday in the island's south. The evacuation was carried out on the initiative of the villagers because of the heavy smoke that covered the area.

"The fire is close to inhabited areas but for the time being has not posed an immediate threat," a fire department spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Greece is hit by wildfires, many started by arsonists, every summer, the flames fanned by high temperatures and strong winds.

Earlier this month, a wildfire blazing for five days threatened Mount Athos, the world's oldest surviving monastic community and a United Nations World Heritage Site, in northern Greece.

The worst major blazes of recent years hit in 2007 in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece and on the island of Evia, leaving 77 people dead and ravaging 250,000 hectares.


Officials keep eye on weather as wildfires burn

fire washington
© AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, flames surround a house on a hillside above Bettas Road near Cle Elum, Wash.
Yakima, Washington - Crews in central Washington, rural Idaho and Southern California made gains on several wildfires, allowing some evacuees to return home and protecting two vacation towns from a massive encroaching blaze.

Firefighters stopped a fire about 75 miles east of Seattle from destroying more buildings in the past two days, fire spokesman Mark Grassel said Thursday. The blaze near the town of Cle Elum burned at least 70 homes, more than 200 outbuildings and about 35 square miles of wildland since it started Monday.

Crews focused on strengthening lines on the fire's stubborn north flank, where flames whipped through thick pine and fir forests in a steep, rugged area.

"They're really trying to button up that line so they feel more secure about it holding," Grassel said.

Firefighters' work allowed officials to lift some evacuation orders, although homeowners said they didn't feel out of danger yet. Unusually hot, dry, unstable weather was expected Friday and Saturday, with thunderstorms possible, Grassel said.


Riverside County Wildfire 90% Contained, Authorities Say

© Frank Bellino / Riverside Press-Enterprise
A DC-10 drops retardant on the Buck wildfire over rugged terrain south of Hemet on Tuesday.
US, California - A wildfire that burned across 2,500 acres of Riverside County and forced some homes to be evacuated has been 90% contained, authorities said.

Some smoldering continues in interior back-country areas, the Riverside County Fire Department announced Thursday. One firefighter needed to be taken to a hospital with minor injuries, the department said.

Two other firefighters and one civilian had been injured Wednesday, and four structures were destroyed.

The Buck fire was one of more than a dozen that burned across the state this week, including a blaze a northern San Diego County called the Vallecito Lightning Complex fire. The Vallecito blaze, which started Sunday, has been 70% contained. Marine and Navy helicopters were used to assist the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in fighting the blaze, which stretched over almost 20,000 acres.

Other fires were reported this week in San Bernardino County, Kern County and the Stanislaus National Forest. Ken Pimlott, chief of Cal Fire, said Wednesday that over 8,000 state, local and federal firefighters were battling the flames across the state.

Bizarro Earth

Wildfires threaten homes in several western states

Wildfires have destroyed dozens of homes and threatened hundreds more in several western U.S. states, including Idaho, where an on-duty firefighter was killed by a falling tree. Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old who was in her second season as a firefighter, was killed Sunday as she worked a fire near Orofino, the U.S. Forest Service said. Her older brother also is a wild-land firefighter in Idaho, where 12 blazes are burning.

"The Forest Service is devastated by the loss of one of our own," Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said.Officials were investigating the death, which came on the same day that another firefighter narrowly escaped a wildfire in southeastern Oregon.

That firefighter was forced to deploy her emergency shelter in an area overrun by wind-whipped flames. She suffered minor burns to a leg and forearm and minor smoke inhalation. Her 20-person federal crew made it to a safety zone and was pulled off the fire. The blaze scorched about 653 square miles in remote terrain straddling Oregon and Nevada, where five ranches in the Kings River Valley were evacuated.

Bizarro Earth

Unusual weather events identified during the Black Saturday bushfires

Research has revealed that the extremely hot, dry and windy conditions on Black Saturday combined with structures in the atmosphere called 'horizontal convective rolls' -similar to streamers of wind flowing through the air - which likely affected fire behaviour. The study is the first of its kind to produce such detailed, high-resolution simulations of weather patterns on the day and provides insights for future fire management and warning systems.

The work was led by Dr Todd Lane and Ms Chermelle Engel from The University of Melbourne with Prof Michael Reeder (Monash University) and Dr Michael Rezny (ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science).

The team examined meteorological conditions across Victoria on 7 February, 2009. The analysis used a very high-resolution weather forecasting model, which represented the airflow over the entire state on 400 metre weather grids, which are about ten times smaller than the grids used in operational weather forecasting. Weather conditions observed on the day were used to validate the model.


Spanish Wildfire Threatens Ancient Forest Area

© The Associated Press/Moises Mendoza
A scorched and burnt farm appears after the ravages of a wildfire which swept through parts La Gomera, the Canary Islands, Spain on Aug. 6, 2012.
Madrid - Officials said Saturday that a wildfire thought to be under control on a Spanish island is now spreading, threatening a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Regional agriculture spokeswoman Nancy Melo said flames on the Canary Island of La Gomera were encroaching on Garajonay National Park, which contains forests "of incalculable ecological value."

The government of the Canary Islands said in a Friday night statement that the fire had now intensified, and another blaze had started on the neighbouring island of Tenerife, with some 400 residents evacuated from the island's west.