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California wildfires: President Trump declares major disaster

Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk: US President Donald Trump has declared that wildfires burning through homes and devastating precious forestry in parts of California are a major disaster and has released federal aid.

Over 14,000 firefighters are battling 585 fires that have now burnt nearly one million acres (400,000 hectares).

Forecast high winds are threatening to drive flames into more populated areas as foul air blankets the state.

At least six people have died and thousands have evacuated. Most of the destruction has been caused by three large fire complexes in mountainous and wooded rural areas.

On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the SCU Lightning Complex fire south and east of San Francisco was the third-largest in the state’s history. Video tweeted by the governor showed burnt tree stumps against the reddened fumes-filled sky and plumes of white smoke rising from ash-laden ground.

An evacuation order on Saturday extended to thousands of people in the Bay area near San Jose and warned others to be prepared to abandon their homes at short notice.Exhausted firefighters continue to battle the flames, with some working 72-hour shifts in the dangerous, hot conditions, reports AP news agency. “They’re scrambling for bodies” to help fight the fires, an official in the city of Fresno told Reuters news agency.

In California’s oldest state park, flames scorched redwood trees that began their lives more than 2,000 years ago. The historic visitor center of Big Basin State Park was burnt to the ground and officials say some trees, which tower as high as 330ft (100 meters), have fallen as the area was “extensively damaged”.The state faces a more acute shortage of personnel than usual – the coronavirus pandemic has depleted a fire-fighting corps made up of prisoners, which has helped the state battle blazes since World War Two, due to early releases from jail.

At least 43 people including firefighters have been injured, and hundreds of buildings have burned down and thousands more are threatened.

After doubling in size on Friday, the fires continued to grow moderately on Saturday and firefighters made some progress in containing the flames. More than 12,000 dry lightning strikes started the blazes last week during a historic heat wave in which thermometers in Death Valley National Park reached what could be the highest ever temperature reliably recorded.

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