California wildfire doubles in size, threatens 12,000 homes

September 1st, 2009 - 1:03 am ICT by IANS  

Arnold Schwarzenegger Los Angeles, Aug 31 (DPA) A raging California wildfire doubled in size Monday and two firefighters were killed when their vehicle tumbled down a mountain as they were fighting the region’s worst blaze of the year.
Some 12,000 homes are currently threatened by the fire, which could also knock out the transmitters towers for much of the television, radio and cellphones in the Los Angeles area.

Further to the south, the Oak Glen Fire threatened 2,000 homes in San Bernardino County as dry and hot conditions across the region fanned flames that raced through tinder-dry brush.

Some 50 helicopters and more than 6,400 firefighters have been mobilised to battle the blazes, which have now burnt over 34,000 hectares since they ignited last week. At least 18 homes were destroyed by Monday morning, but fire officials expected the toll to worsen.

The flames in the Los Angeles National Forest sent a huge plume of smoke into the air over the city and could be seen for miles, while authorities warned of poor air quality.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the base of operations battling the blaze and noted the difficult conditions hindering firefighting, including temperatures near 35 degrees Celsius and dry brush that had not burned for years. On Friday, Schwarzenegger had declared a state of emergency to speed up relief efforts.

Elsewhere in the state, a fire destroyed 11 homes northeast of Sacramento and 100 homes were threatened, while one home had been destroyed in a 2,500-hectare blaze near Pinnacles National Monument in Monterey County. A further 50 homes were threatened by a 1,700-hectare blaze in Yosemite National Park that was 50 percent contained.

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