Fires rage across western United States

Fires rage across western United States

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Firefighters have struggled to contain infernos across the western United Statesas experts warned that drought-striken California should prepare for an unusually intense wildfire season.

Forest fires are a fact of life in much of California but have become far worse because of bone-dry conditions, with the Golden State gripped in its fifth year of drought.

A fire in the Los Padres National Forest had expanded to two square miles (five square kilometers) yesterday, making it the “largest since 2009” in the area, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Information Center told AFP.

Strong winds were hampering efforts to contain the blaze, and the operation was expected to be hindered further by near-record temperatures over the weekend in the southern half of California.

Los Padres, which begins about two hours drive northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is popular with hikers and campers, and evacuation orders were issued in at-risk parts of the forest.

Sections of Highway 101, which links northern and southern California, were temporarily closed while oil giant ExxonMobil evacuated its refinery in Las Flores Canyon.

Another fire further north burned about four square miles and caused road closures, also threatening buildings, although there were no reports of injuries.

Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for public information organisation Calfire, said America’s most populous state could see its worst fire season on record this year.

Meanwhile, a blaze in Warren Creek, in the northwestern state of Alaska, was raging across eight square miles of a Native American reserve, while four fires were burning up more than 40 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico. Read More

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