One person is dead and more than 400 homes have been torched in one of California’s fastest burning wildfires, multiple sources report.
“This fire basically exploded,” Scott McLean, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told Good Morning America live on Monday. “It went in so many different directions and we need to get a handle [on] it.”
McLean said the firefighters are very tired and some have seen their own homes go up in flames.
“This is my home. Or it was,” firefighter Justin Galvin, 33, told the AP on Sunday afternoon as he poked the remains with a scrap of metal. Galvin spent all night fighting another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Residents fled from Middletown amid downed power lines, snapped trees, and billowing smoke. Wind gusts reached up to 30 miles per hour, further fanning the flames.
“All that’s left of the house is the chimney. It’s devastating. It’s devastating,” Donna Clevenger told local KQED. “I’m 56 years old and I’ve been out on my own since I was 18 and I’ve accumulated almost 40 years of stuff and it’s gone. Overnight.”
Four firefighters who are members of a helicopter crew remain hospitalized in stable condition after suffering second-degree burns on Saturday afternoon.
The Cal Fire spokeswoman, Lynn Valentine, confirmed the death of one person on Sunday to the Associated Press but did not provide details.
A separate fire, which started on Wednesday in Butte, burned 65,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties, scorching 135 homes and 79 outbuildings by Sunday night, Cal Fire said, per the Sacramento Bee. That fire was reported at 25 percent containment.
On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Lake and Napa counties. He’d previously issued a similar order for the Butte fire, the AP reported.
“The fires are spreading faster than I have seen in my 30 years,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services told the Sacramento Bee.
These two fires are just the latest this summer across the West – spanning California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
East of Fresno, Calif., the largest wildfire in the state continues to burn, heading west, Cal Fire spokesman Dave Schmitt told the AP. The fire was sparked by lightning on July 31.
As of Sunday it was 31 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said, the AP reported.