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Wildfires Continue To Burn Through California


In California today, nearly 14,000 firefighters are on the frontlines of more than a dozen major wildfires. Three of the largest fires are burning in northern California. Fire officials there say there is no end in sight. Thousands of structures have been destroyed, and thousands more are threatened. Since these fires began, nine people have died. Jeremy Siegel from member station KQED has more.

JEREMY SIEGEL, BYLINE: Officials say the largest fire in the state is the Mendocino Complex which is burning a few hours north of wine country. The fire scorched more than 270,000 acres, making it the second-largest in California history. And with strong winds and low humidity expected to continue, the Complex is on track to become the biggest fire to ever hit the state.

The fire's mostly burning in rural land, but multiple residential areas in Lake and Mendocino Counties remain under evacuation orders. Firefighter Trevor Pappas says he's talked to people who have had to evacuate multiple times this summer.

TREVOR PAPPAS: Which is, you know, kind of tough to hear 'cause here I am as a firefighter supposed to do my job. And, you know, to hear, like, I can't even live where I want to live because the fires aren't being stopped, it's kind of disheartening for sure.

SIEGEL: And the Mendocino Complex isn't the only fire in California. Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean says they're spreading resources to multiple areas.

SCOTT MCLEAN: It's going to be expensive. I mean, there's going to be a significant cost involved just because of the activity we've been dealing with as far as these fires coming, like, two months early, the size of them, the amount of them. There's going to be a big bill.

SIEGEL: Over in the city of Redding where the devastating car fire displaced tens of thousands of people, some residents are returning to their homes. Earlier the blaze created its own weather patterns, and a fire tornado ripped through parts of the city, destroying more than a thousand buildings. Further south, another relentless wildland blaze called the Ferguson Fire continues to burn around and within Yosemite National Park. Last month, because of poor air quality from smoke, officials shut down a large portion of the park, including the highly popular Yosemite Valley. And now, because the fire is just too unpredictable, park officials say they're keeping it closed indefinitely.

SCOTT GEDIMAN: This is obviously a huge disappointment to visitors. It's a huge impact in the millions of dollars now between the park concessionaire and all the gateway communities.

SIEGEL: That's park spokesman Scott Gediman. He says crews are working around the clock trying to protect some of Yosemite's most treasured areas from being destroyed.

GEDIMAN: Yosemite National Park belongs to the American people, and people from all over the world love Yosemite.

SIEGEL: President Trump has declared parts of California disaster areas, which makes federal funds available for residents affected by the fires. Fire season came early to California this year. And last year, fires burned all the way into December. For NPR News, I'm Jeremy Siegel in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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