Thousands flee wildfires burning in the US and Canada
Homes were destroyed and children and counselors were temporarily trapped at a California campground
SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Wildfires barreled across the baking landscape of the western U.S. and Canada, destroying a smattering of homes, forcing thousands to flee and temporarily trapping children and counselors at a California campground.
Here's a look at the wildfires blackening the West.
A pair of wildfires egged on by record-breaking heat in Southern California quickly spread, threatening hundreds of homes and forcing evacuations at a popular lakeside campground and a summer camp.
The fire that started early Saturday afternoon in Santa Barbara County had spread to both sides of Highway 154 and was completely out of control, county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. About 90 children and 50 counselors were stuck at the Circle V Ranch and had to take shelter until they could be safely evacuated.
High temps and dry gusts tripled the size of another Santa Barbara wildfire to nearly 30 square miles (about 77 square kilometers) over eight hours and forced evacuations of about 200 homes in a rural area east of Santa Maria, fire spokesman Kirk Sturm said.
In the middle of the afternoon, Santa Barbara officials sent out alerts to residents and campers near Cachuma Lake to evacuate as the fire started near Whittier Camp, Zaniboni said.
The lake, which was nearly bone dry last summer after the severe drought, is popular for camping, boating and fishing. Residents were also ordered to leave cabins in the Los Padres National Forest.
The fire burned at least 4.7 square miles (12 square kilometers), including a portion of the Cachuma Lake campground, and was 10 percent contained.
In Northern California, a Butte County wildfire swept through grassy foothills and destroyed 10 structures, including homes, and led to several minor injuries.
Burned-out pickup trucks were left in ashes, surrounded by charred, leafless trees. The metal frame of a mobile home and a vintage stove were left standing in scorched debris at one site.
The blaze about 60 miles north of Sacramento grew rapidly to more than 7 square miles (11 square kilometers) and was 20 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The area burning was about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south 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. On Saturday, authorities issued an evacuation for about 250 homes threatened by the fire
After five years of severe drought, California got a big break with record rainfall and snowpack in parts of the state this year that has delayed the start of fire season in some places, but has also led to explosive vegetation growth that could fuel future fires.
Firefighters were contending with nearly 200 wildfires burning in British Columbia that had destroyed dozens of buildings, including several homes and two airport hangars. The three biggest fires, which ranged in size from 5 to 8 square miles (14 to 20 square kilometers), had forced thousands of people to flee.
The province has been sending as many firefighters as it can to contain the flames -- more than 1,000 were battling the fires, backed by hundreds of support staff.
Cliff Chapman, the deputy manager at the Kamloops Fire Centre, suggested Saturday was a day he'd never forget.
"I've been in this business for 17 years, from crew all the way up to where I am now, and I haven't experienced a day like we experienced yesterday," he said.
ELSEWHERE IN THE WEST
In Colorado, residents of nearly 500 homes outside the ski town of Breckenridge were allowed to return home Friday night. On Saturday, authorities lifted an evacuation order in Landusky, Montana, in the Little Rocky Mountains south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
A grass fire in northwestern Colorado had burned 18 square miles (47 square kilometers) and was spreading in several directions at once because of wind patterns from passing thunderstorms, fire spokesman Chris Barth said.
A wildfire in southern Wyoming grew to 3 square miles (8 square kilometers). An unknown number of cabins remained under evacuation orders.