More fires and evacuations in tired California

LOS ANGELES: California firefighters tackled new and rapid forest fires during Thursday night, advancing against a series of major fires that have forced massive evacuations and power outages.

Three fast-moving hell broke out on Thursday in the southern part of the state, burning several houses and forcing people to flee.

One, the hillside fire, was in San Bernardino, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, while the other, fire 46, was in neighboring Riverside County.

The third, called Maria Fire, broke out Thursday night in Ventura County, threatening two small nearby farming cities and forcing the evacuation of more than 7,000 people, as it spread over 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares), according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Hundreds of firefighters backed by helicopters throwing water attacked fires caused by the so-called Santa Ana winds that have caused unprecedented warnings of extremely critical fire risk, the most severe category.

I was asleep and woke up at 2:00 in the morning with a strong smell of smoke, said Matthew Valdivia, 35, while standing in front of the remains of his house destroyed by the fire in San Bernardino.

Valdivia told AFP that he and his wife quickly woke up their four children and alerted the neighbors when the flames closed.

It is devastating, he said. This was our first house ... I worked 72 hours a week just to live the American dream.

The National Meteorological Service said that although the red flag warnings would remain in effect until Thursday in much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, conditions had improved.

Winds are somewhat softer today in most areas, which is good news for our firefighters, he said.

In the north California Firefighters reported that they made significant progress against the massive Kincade fire, which broke out on October 23 and has devastated the wine region of Sonoma County.

The fire, the largest this season, has destroyed nearly 300 homes and other properties, including several wineries, and burned almost 77,000 acres. It was contained at 60 percent on Thursday.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued that allows tens of thousands of residents to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, firefighters continued to fight a fire in the Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles, where a fire broke out on Wednesday and dangerously approached the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Some 30,000 people were forced to evacuate while the flames burned at night, fueled by gusts of wind up to 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour.

The winds were powerful enough to dump some trucks on a nearby road.

More than 700 firefighters were fighting the fire known as Easy Fire, backed by helicopters and planes that threw water and fire retardants.

It was unclear what started the fire but Southern California Edison said it began near one of its power lines which had not been cut off.

The utility, like other power companies across the state, has been cutting off the power supply to hundreds of thousands of customers in an attempt to reduce the risk of fire.

The Ventura County Fire Department said Easy Fire burned 1,723 acres and that Thursday morning had been contained at 10 percent.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency because of the fires and secured federal funding to assist agencies responding to the fires.

The blazes come as California is still reeling from the aftermath of the most destructive wildfire in state history - the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 86 people last year.

Similar blazes in northern California, including in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, killed 44 people in 2017 and destroyed thousands of structures.

There have been no fire-related deaths this year.

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