California town told to evacuate as fires scorch 2M acres

Cal Fire said more than 2 million acres of California land has so far been torched by fires this fire season. Photo courtesy of San Diego Sheriff's Department/Twitter

Sept. 8 (UPI) — The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has issued evacuation orders for the entire town of Auberry as fires throughout California have burned more than 2 million acres.

The sheriff’s office issued the order for Auberry, located about 37 miles northeast of Fresno, due to the Creek Fire, which had grown to 135,523 acres with 0% contained by Monday night.

Evacuation orders have also been issued for Madera County with evacuation warnings in place for Fresno County, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Officials said the fire grew in all directions over Monday with some 1,060 personnel working to protect lives and property in the area.

Brandon Pursell, of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, described the fire to reporters during a press conference as an “unprecedented disaster” for Fresno, urging those under emergency evacuation warnings to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.

“We are going to be expecting additional evacuations and additional warnings to be going out throughout this fire,” he said.

Creek Fire is just one of the dozens of fires raging throughout the state, consuming more than 2.178 million acres this fire season, according to Cal Fire’s website.

Cal Fire’s Capt. Richard Cordova told CNN that the millions of acres torched was a state record.

“This is crazy,” he said. “We haven’t even got into the October and November fire season and we’ve broken the all-time record.”

A total of eight people have died this fire season and nearly 4,000 structures have been either damaged or destroyed.

On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to the fires that have been exacerbated by extreme temperatures, lightning strikes and arid conditions.

One fire began as a result of a “pyrotechnic device” used during a gender reveal party, Cal Fire said.

Pacific Gas and Electric said late Monday that it has begun turning off power in high fire-threat areas, affecting 172,000 customers in 22 counties in the state, with the expectation that the shutoff will last through Wednesday morning.

“Due to forecasted extreme weather conditions, PG&E is considering proactively turning off power for safety,” the utility said in a statement on Facebook. “Windy conditions, like those being forecast, increase the potential for damage and hazards to the electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized.”

The utility said the National Weather Service has placed 1.5 million of its customers under Red Flag Warning conditions.

The fires have also prompted the U.S. Forest Service to close eight national forests in the state and prohibit the use of any ignition source on all national forest system lands throughout California.

“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Randy Moore, regional forester with the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, said in a statement. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.”


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