New California fire burns 160 square kilometres, forces evacuations

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Wildfires burning in Northern California spread at the weekend, propelled by strong winds and forcing the evacuations of thousands of people.

A blaze dubbed the Valley Fire 185 kilometres west of the state capital, Sacramento, began Saturday afternoon and had consumed 160 square kilometres by Sunday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

About 1,000 firefighters were battling it, but it is zero-per-cent contained, the department said.

Evacuations were ordered in the communities of Cobb, Seigler Canyon, Loch Lomond, Middletown and Hidden Valley Lakes and their surrounding areas, and area highways were also closed.

Four firefighters suffered burns upon their Valley Fire deployment, and a spokesman for the fire crews called the wildfires the worst the area had seen in nearly 30 years.

The injured firefighters were members of a helicopter crew and were taken to hospital with second-degree burns, Daniel Berlant, the department’s chief spokesman, said on Twitter.

Wildfires have been burning for a month and a half in Northern California, and Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday.

Other blazes have burned a total of more than 320 square kilometres south-east of Sacramento, authorities said. At least 86 houses and 51 businesses have been destroyed in the region, and more than 6,400 houses are threatened by the fires.

More than 3,000 firefighters are battling the flames.

A fire threatening a grove of giant sequoia trees, some of the oldest and biggest trees in the world, has been a third contained in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Lightening started the so-called Rough Fire on July 31.

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