Growing California fires prompt new evacuations

Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch fire as it continues to spreads towards the town of Upper Lake California

Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch fire as it continues to spreads towards the town of Upper Lake California

Twin wildfires fueled by dry vegetation and hot, windy weather continued to grow Saturday in Northern California, destroying 55 homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee their neighborhoods.

"Wawona, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, Crane Flat, Big Oak Flat, and Hetch Hetchy are closed due to the Ferguson Fire", the National Park Service said in a statement on its website.

That fire continues to burn about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the OR border as firefighters there and throughout Northern California brace for worsening conditions this weekend.

Two firefighters and four other people have been killed since the blaze, which ignited July 23, raced with extraordinary fury toward the region's largest city.

"They're working hard to repopulate Lakeport today and tomorrow", Wilson said.

The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings of extreme fire danger through Saturday night because of low humidity and gusty winds.

"This is a particularly unsafe situation with extremely low humidity and high winds".

Tuesday afternoon winds pushed the two blazes that comprise the Mendocino Complex of Fires farther east, both spreading for at least a mile. Crews had reached 30 percent containment on the complex.

The heat of wildfires can sometimes create short-lived "fire whirls", and at first, experts were reluctant to call the Redding fire column a tornado.

Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was killed while battling the blaze, leaving behind his wife and two children. Fourteen homes and 24 other structures have been destroyed, and eight other homes have been damaged, according to Cal Fire.

Some evacuations were lifted Friday in an area near Redding, where armies of firefighters and fleets of aircraft have been battling an enormous blaze about 100 miles south of the OR line. The whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes, Dykema said.

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.

Firefighters have managed to contain 41 percent of that blaze and authorities are allowing some people who had evacuated to return, Cal Fire said.

"It's going to be a very dynamic day and the fire has the potential to impact several communities", said Cal Fire Mendocino Complex Fire Operations Section Chief Charlie Blankenheim during his morning briefing August 4, explaining that on Friday afternoon, the Ranch Fire "made a big push to the south and the east, and overnight continued to burn very, very actively and was backing down into the community of Lucerne, and it made a good push across Long Valley Ridge".

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