A quickly spreading wildfire forced tens of thousands of residents to flee as it roared unchecked through the northern California village of nearby communities and Middletown and destroyed hundreds of homes, fire officials said on Sunday.
The so called Valley Fire, now ranked as the most destructive among dozens of blazes that have ravaged the drought-hit Western United States this summer, arrived amid what California fire officials described as “unheard of fire behaviour” this season.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) place the absolute quantity of Valley Fire evacuees on Sunday night at more than 19,300.
Another fire raging since more than 130 buildings have leveled and was endangering structures, with other about 6,400 thousands of residents under evacuation orders there, too reported.
A video footage from Middletown revealed a smoking, devastated landscape of blackened, burned out the charred foundations of buildings that have been reduced to ash along with vehicles.
“While teams haven’t had a chance to do the full damage assessment … we know countless structures are ruined,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said in a Twitter post.
Property losses contained “countless dwellings and other buildings,” he added in a following video news briefing.
Thousands of evacuees from Middletown, Cobb, Hidden Valley Lake as well as the Harbin Hot Springs resort gathered in shelters, eateries and friends’ houses in Calistoga and nearby Kelseyville to await word on dogs, horses and their homes.
The mountain town of Cobb was hit first Saturday afternoon, and the blaze reached Middletown before sunset a couple of hours afterwards, Cal Fire spokeswoman Amy Head told Reuters. The two communities, each with a population of about 1,500, were among the areas that bore the brunt of the fires.
A combination of drought and also a heat wave last week had left highly combustible and vegetation tinder dry, setting the stage to get a conflagration that thwarted the best efforts of firefighters to contain it, Berlant said.