Epidemic of wildfires hits northern California

Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency as wildfires rage in northern California.
By Frances Burns  |  Aug. 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM
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SACRAMENTO, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Residents of a long-term care hospital were among the hundreds of people forced to evacuate by an epidemic of wildfires in northern California.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Saturday as fires, three of them started by lightning strikes, grew into major blazes. As many as 14 fires were burning in the central and northern part of the state.

Fire departments around the state sent crews north to help in the effort. California has been enduring far more fires than usual in the late spring and early summer because of a prolonged drought.

"It's early August. In California, historically, the wildland season really gets going in September and October," San Jose Fire Department Capt. Mike Van Elgort said.

The Bald fire and the Eiler fire continued to burn in and around Lassen National Forest. By early Monday, they had consumed around 100 square miles of brush and woodland.

Burney, a town of more than 3,000 people and the fly-fishing center in the area, was under an evacuation watch Monday. The Shasta County sheriff ordered evacuations Saturday evening in three smaller communities.

The longterm care hospital was evacuated as a precaution, officials said.

The two fires more than doubled in total size between Friday and Saturday.

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