Wildfire forces 10,000 to evacuate California town
Friday, 11 July 2008

REUTERS, SAN FRANCISCO- Authorities ordered more than 10,000 residents of Paradise, California, to leave their homes on Wednesday as a stubborn wildfire threatened to jump a river and spread into town where a blaze destroyed 74 homes in June.

A message on Paradise's Web site by the town manager urged a speedy exit: "Citizens need to immediately evacuate by gathering personal belongings that will fit in your vehicle."
 
The so-called Butte Lightning Complex fire near Paradise, 138 km north of Sacramento, is one of more than 300 wildfires burning across California after lightning storms swept across the state last month sparking blazes in wilderness areas thick with bone-dry brush and trees.
 
The Butte fire has burned 49,000 acres (19,829 hectares) since starting June 21, destroyed at least 50 structures including 40 homes and now threatens an estimated 3,800 more residences, according to firefighting agency Cal Fire.
 
Nearly 2,800 firefighters and other personnel have contained about 40 percent of the Butte blaze. Fire officials ordered Paradise residents to evacuate should erratic winds push the blaze west toward the town of 26,000.
 
"The winds have been very tricky," said Anne McLean, a spokeswoman for fire crews fighting the blaze. "They tend to move around and change direction."
 
Meanwhile, nearly 2,300 firefighters and other personnel in the Big Sur area have contained 27 percent of the Basin Complex fire, another blaze sparked by lightning on June 21 that has burned nearly 87,000 acres (35,207 hectares) in the scenic region along central California's coastline.
 
But mandatory evacuation orders for that area have been lifted and the main coastal highway has been opened to residents and service workers.
 
Farther south, more than 1,100 firefighters and other personnel have contained 55 percent of the Gap Fire near Goleta, California, which is close to the upscale beach town of Santa Barbara.
 
The Gap Fire, which started July 1, has burned 9,710 acres (3,929 hectares) and at one point had pressed against residential lots in Goleta. Its cause is under investigation.

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