California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in response to the massive wildfire that continues to ravage vast swaths of land in the north of the state and has destroyed hundreds of homes.
The so-called Valley Fire erupted on Saturday afternoon and has since consumed 61,000 acres of land and hundreds of homes in Lake County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, an agency which is also known as Cal Fire. Officials have called it the most destructive wildfire of 2015, a year which has seen thousands of fires blaze through the western United States.
The Valley Fire hit the rural towns of Middleton and Cobb the hardest, according to fire officials. Video shows entire stretches of neighborhoods reduced to ash and residents escaping burned-out homes.
"I'm standing in the middle of a bombed-out town," Scott McLean, a battalion chief for Cal Fire, told the New York Times from Middletown. "I'm on a block of burned-down structures. There's the frame of a mobile home — that's all that's left. The cars are burned-out hulks. The trees look like skeletons. There's a porch swing, a bathtub. I'm seeing the remnants of somebody's life."
After declaring a state of emergency and ordering mandatory evacuations in the Napa and Lake counties, Governor Brown called in the National Guard to assist the 1,255 fire personnel currently trying to fight the blaze. On Monday, Cal Fire said the Valley Fire is five percent contained. Four firefighters were hospitalized with second-degree burns after they were deployed to fight the fire.
One hundred miles east, a separate wildfire, Butte Fire, has blazed through more than 70,000 acres since Wednesday and is 30 percent contained. Cal Fire is also currently fighting 13 other fires.
California has been hit by more than 5,000 wildfires this year, which officials have described as "unheard of fire behavior," as a result of one of the worst droughts in the state's history. Currently, 358,345 acres of land are burning in California, according to the national interagency fire center.
California is not alone. Wildfires have burned through nearly nine million acres of land this year across the western United States, as a result of a drought and windy conditions that have facilitated the spread of the fires.
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