The governor of California has declared a state of emergency in Lake County, as the Pawnee Fire continues to spread rapidly. The wildfire, which began on June 23, is currently burning across 10,500 acres reports Newsweek.
The fire has already forced thousands to be evacuated from their homes across the entire Spring Valley community, has destroyed more than 20 homes and threatens a further 600 structures, according to Cal Fire. Around 3,000 residents were evacuated in Lake County, about 120 miles north of San Francisco after huge flames threatened homes and businesses. The cause of the fires is not yet known but officials said hot weather, high winds, and dry conditions were fuelling the flames.
Governor Jerry Brown has now confirmed a state of emergency is in operation as more than 230 firefighters continue to tackle the blaze. Announcing the proclamation, Brown said:
“The circumstances of this fire, by reason of its magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat.”
Two Fire Management Assistance Grants have also been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the state of California to help emergency services deal with the Pawnee Fire. In a statement, the agency confirmed that a state submits a request for an assistance grant when a “threat of major disaster” exists.
“The main fire growth is pushing east and northeast,” said Cal Fire Assistant Chief Billy See. “Each day we’re fighting Mother Nature right now.”
Residents who have already been forced from their homes have described fears that their properties could still be destroyed as the fire rages into its fourth day. Spring Valley residents have been warned it could take up to five days before they could be allowed to return to their homes.
“We’ve been living with our hearts in our throats,” Spring Valley local Lola Claypool said. “You think, are we going to have a home when we go home. Where are we going to go? What are we going to do?”
Residents have also been evacuated in Tehama County, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. The blaze destroyed multiple homes and businesses and threatened another 200 buildings, fire chiefs said. Residents also fled a wildfire in Shasta County, about 300 miles north of San Francisco.
It comes less than a year after California’s costliest fires killed more than 40 people and tore through the state’s wine country in October, causing an estimated $10bn in damage.