It was my worst-case scenario…. I wasn’t home, I wasn’t able to get there and I had to evacuate.
— Sarah Gustafson, who evacuated with her six cats
Javier Panzar and Matt HamiltonContact Reporters
With a heat wave continuing to bake California and the rest of the West, wildfires forced nearly 8,000 people to dash for safety Sunday as flames destroyed homes and threatened thousands of structures across the state.
Along the Central Coast, firefighters battled two major blazes on opposite ends of Santa Barbara County. Efforts Sunday focused on protecting mountain peaks that hold crucial communication and electrical infrastructure, including a high-voltage line that carries power to Santa Barbara and neighboring cities.
The Alamo fire, near Highway 166 in northern Santa Barbara County, was the largest active fire in California and was 15% contained after burning more than 37 square miles as of Sunday evening, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. At least 200 people were forced to evacuate a remote area east of Santa Maria, and about 1,000 firefighters from Los Angeles and across the state rushed to help control the flames, Cal Fire said.
Wildfires across California destroy more than two dozen homes >>
Wildfires have been barreling across the baking landscape of the western US and Canada, forcing thousands of residents to flee and destroying homes.
In California, two major wildfires have forced nearly 8,000 people out of their properties.
About 4,000 people were evacuated and another 7,400 were told to prepare to leave their homes as fire swept through grassy foothills in the Sierra Nevada, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Sunday.
The fire has burned nearly four sq miles (11 sq km), injured four firefighters and destroyed at least 10 structures, but that number is expected to rise, fire spokeswoman Mary Ann Aldrich said.
The area burning was south-east of Oroville, where spillways in the nation’s tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200,000 residents downstream.