Two major wildfires in California have forced nearly 8,000 people out of their homes.
About 4,000 people were evacuated and another 7,400 were told to prepare to leave their homes as fire swept through grassy foothills in the Sierra Nevada, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday.
The fire has burned down nearly 11 sq. kilometers, injured four firefighters and destroyed at least 10 structures, but that number is expected to rise, fire spokesperson Mary Ann Aldrich said.
The area burning was southeast of Oroville, where spillways in the nation’s tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200,000 residents downstream.
“It leaves you feeling like you can’t catch a break,” said Sharon Reitan, who sought shelter at an evacuation center with her boyfriend Sunday night.
They were in Oroville on Friday afternoon when the fire broke out and roads to their hillside home were blocked. They later saw photographs of their home burned to the ground.
“The road that we live on was hit hard,” Reitan said. “We’re in shut down mode right now, it’s so devastating.”
The fire was 20 percent contained. It was one of 14 wildfires across California that about 5,000 firefighters battled Sunday.
In Southern California, at least 3,500 people were evacuated as two fires blazed at separate ends of Santa Barbara County and a third one threatened homes near a town in San Luis Obispo County.
One of the fires grew to 31 square kilometers, traversing a mountain range and heading south toward coastal Goleta.
There was minimal containment, and flames shut down State Route 154, which is expected to remain closed for days. At least 20 structures burned down, but officials didn’t say if they were homes.
The fire broke out near a campsite and sent hundreds of campers scrambling, including about 90 children and 50 staff members who had to take shelter until they could be safely evacuated.
Amayah Madere told KCBS-TV she was in the pool when a counselor told the children to get out and change in a hurry. She said they waited in a dining hall while firefighters fought the fire and the counselors sprayed down the area with water.
“I prayed that if I didn’t die I would go to church, and right when I prayed the firefighters came,” Madere said.
Crews were also using an air attack against another blaze about 50 miles north that exploded in size to 97 square kilometers. About 200 rural homes east of Santa Maria were evacuated after the fire broke out Saturday and was fed by dry gusts.
Some of the firefighters working to contain that blaze were sent to nearby San Luis Obispo County when a fire broke out Sunday and threatened numerous structures near the town of Santa Margarita. Officials said the fire burned 340 acres.