Wildfires in California and across the West force evacuations

A rapidly spreading wildfire in Santa Barbara County, near Los Padres National Forest, forced thousands to be evacuated on July 8, 2017. Photo by Mike Eliason/SBC Fire handout/European Pressphoto Agency

July 9 (UPI) — Hundreds of people have been evacuated in California, as wildfires continue to spread. Fires are burning throughout the West amid record high temperatures.

On Saturday, campers and counselors had to be evacuated by emergency personnel after an out-of-control fire in Santa Barbara County, Calif., surrounded Circle V Ranch, a summer camp.

The 60 campers, mostly children, were among some 2,000 people evacuated as the Whittier Fire quickly grew to engulf acreage on both sides of highway 154 near Los Padres National Forest.

“We would like everyone to say a prayer for the brave fire fighters who kept us safe and continue to battle the fire,” the summer camp wrote in a note on Facebook.

Dozens of people at nearby Camp Whittier and Lake Cachuma also had to abandon their tents and RVs as encroaching flames threatened.

In San Luis Obispo County, north of Santa Barbara County, a second fire also grew quickly on Friday and Saturday, forcing the evacuation of 200 nearby homes. More than 19,000 acres were burning at last count.

Both fires were only nominally contained as of late Saturday.

On Twitter, Los Padres National Forest officials reported that a the Whittier Fire had engulfed 7,800 acres.

A third fire, dubbed the Wall Fire, destroyed ten homes and injured four in Butte County, just north of Sacramento. It continues to burn.

“We’re doing our best to get our upper hand on it, but we have a lot to contend with, with the weather and the fuels that are out there — very dry,” Cal Fire Capt. Amy Head told KCRA, an NBC affiliate. “So, a long road ahead of us.”

The fires are being fueled by a record-breaking heatwave. Temperatures have soared across much of California in recent days. The high in Los Angeles reached 110 on Saturday. Highs farther west, in the desert and Death Valley, surpassed 120.

Meanwhile in Colorado and Montana, local officials lifted a series of evacuation orders over the weekend as firefighters gained control of blazes that broke out last week. A total of 40 wildfires are currently burning in 11 western states.

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