400 homes destroyed in Californian wildfires

Some 400 homes were among the hundreds of structures destroyed as fast-moving wildfires raged through communities in northern California, leaving at least one person dead and sending residents fleeing along roads where some buildings and vehicles were still in flames.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection confirmed one fatality in the wildfire north of San Francisco that raced through dry brush and exploded in size within hours.

In addition to the homes, officials also counted two apartment complexes and 10 businesses destroyed by the flames, department spokeswoman Lynn Valentine said.

Valentine could not provide details on the circumstances of the death.

In addition, up to 1,000 structures such as barns, sheds and other outbuildings were burnt, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

The devastation comes after a separate wildfire to the southeast destroyed at least 81 homes. Residents fled from Middletown, dodging smouldering telephone poles, downed powerlines, and fallen trees as they drove through billowing smoke.

Teri Molini said she first heard word of the fire on Saturday afternoon and raced out of her house with the family dog, blankets, and mementos. Four hours later, she could see the flames from where she sought shelter.

Four firemen suffered second-degree burns during the initial attack on the fire.

They remained hospitalised in stable condition. The fire continued to burn in all directions, triggering the evacuation of a stretch along Highway 281, including Clear Lake Riviera, a town with 3,000 residents.

It was a threat to communications infrastructure as well as a power plant, Cal Fire said.


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