One of the worst wildfires in California’s history tore through another 162 homes and was threatening thousands more along with another monster blaze sweeping through the state, officials warned Monday.
Cal Fire said Monday that the Valley Fire was almost 69 per cent contained, but that another 6,563 residential buildings were at risk from the wildfire north of San Francisco.
Damage-assessment teams have counted 1,050 homes in total burned in Lake County, many of them in the town of Middletown, according to Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant.
He said teams have completed about 80 per cent of damage assessment, focusing largely on homes and have not yet determined how many additional structures — such as sheds, barns and other outbuildings — were destroyed.
The fire — which has killed at least three people and charred 118 square miles — is considered the fourth worst fire in California history based on total structures burned.
Some of those who fled the fire have been allowed to return home, according to NBC station KCRA.
But "some of these areas were very remote and to get all the crews and equipment in that's needed to clean it up, it's difficult," Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Norm Taylor, told the station. "Beyond that, there are huge tasks for clean-up of toxic substances and health safety issues."
He added that they were gradually reopening small areas on purpose because they couldn’t “have tens of thousands of people racing to one highway to get in all at once."
A second large blaze — dubbed the Butte Fire — is threatening another 6,400 structures about 170 miles southeast in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The Butte Fire already has destroyed almost 550 homes and 356 outbuildings.
That blaze — which has left at least two people dead — was 72 per cent contained by early Monday. While all evacuation orders had been lifted Saturday, some residents returned to find nothing.
"Everything was destroyed," said Annie Curtis, 16, an evacuee from Mountain Ranch, told KCRA.
"My house, the barn, the woodshed, three cars, some tractors, a whole backhoe, the tires melted off," she said.
Meanwhile, authorities announced Monday that another body was found in the ashes of the fast moving Tassajara fire in Monterey County. The Tassajara fire was 30 per cent contained by Monday.
Firefighters found the man's corpse inside a charred vehicle after the fire began Saturday near the community of Jamesburg. His death was being investigated as a possible suicide, Monterey County Sheriff's spokesman John Thornburg said.