California wildfires: Death toll to 7 as rapid spread continues

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The Ranch Fire is 156,678 acres and 27 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. The Mendocino Complex Fire has now burned more than 100,000 acres as of Thursday morning.

Twin wildfires fueled by dry vegetation and hot, windy weather continued to grow Saturday in Mendocino and Lake counties, destroying 55 homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee their neighborhoods. Four of the state's largest six fires have occurred since 2012.

The Carr Fire has scorched 154,524 acres of land since July 23, when authorities say it was triggered by the "mechanical failure of a vehicle" that caused sparks to fly in tinderbox-dry conditions. "Fire managers are continuously assessing conditions in the area and will work directly with and will immediately advise park managers as conditions change and it becomes safe to reopen", the agency said in a statement.

Flames engulf a ridge as the River Fire threatens the town of Lakeport, Calif. Aug. 3, 2018.

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The fire had reached into remote areas of the country's third-oldest national park.

"These kinds of terrible situations bring people together, regardless of the lesser kind of ideologies and partisan considerations", Brown told a news conference Saturday.

Dry, hot winds fueled both blazes, which have collectively charred almost 400 square miles (1,036 square kilometres) of brush and timber. The River and Ranch fires had grown to cover about 229,000 acres (82,675 hectares) by Saturday night, and were considered 32 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The fires have killed at least eight people, stretching the state's funds and resources thin as firefighters try to gain control.

Ayeta is the seventh person to die in the vast blaze that has been burning for two weeks near Redding, where armies of firefighters and fleets of aircraft continue battling the flames about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the OR state line.

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President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for California.

The National Weather Service has issued warnings for critical fire weather conditions Friday and Saturday as a series of dry low-pressure systems pass through the region, bringing gusts up to 35 miles per hour (56 kph) in the afternoon. They have forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 residents and destroyed more than 100 structures.

The declaration for Shasta County will increase residents' eligibility for programs and support in areas such as housing, employment and medical services and provide financial assistance to affected governments dealing with emergency response and recovery costs.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber.

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Wildfires typically create whirls but rarely of the strength of the one recorded July 26, Dykema said. He told Reuters, "Fire season is really just beginning". The whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes, Dykema said.

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