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One person dead as new wildfires sweep through California, burning homes

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, citing "extreme peril" to people and property.

GOLETA, Calif. — Firefighters battling wildfires throughout the U.S. West that have torched hundreds of homes hoped for some help from the weather Saturday even as new fires swept sweltering Southern California.

A fire on the California-Oregon border that destroyed 40 buildings and claimed at least one life since Thursday remained virtually out of control, but a National Weather Service warning of extreme fire danger from heat and winds expired Friday.

It was one of dozens of fires across the dry American West, fueled by rising temperatures and gusty winds that were expected to last through the weekend.

Heat spreading from Southern California into parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah threatened to worsen flames that have forced thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed hundreds of homes across the West.

Farther south, a new wind-driven fire Friday night burned at least 20 homes and threatened hundreds more in the hills above Goleta in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.

Evacuations were ordered as the fire edged into residential areas, and by late Friday night, it was about a mile from the downtown area, county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni told KNX-AM radio.

Authorities said the blaze started with a house fire and gusty winds reportedly were pushing the flames.

Mandatory evacuations were called for an area of about 1,500 people, authorities said.

People were trying to evacuate horses and other livestock from rural ranches, Zaniboni said.

The area is north of where the Thomas Fire raged last December. That blaze destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

East of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities ordered the evacuation of the community of Forest Falls, which has about 700 homes, as a quick-moving wildfire swelled to 1,000 acres (about 1.5 square miles).

In San Diego County, several fires erupted including one that burned at least five homes and perhaps many more in Alpine, in foothills not far from San Diego. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the county.

At a Red Cross shelter, Ben Stanfill told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he and other relatives helped evacuate his mother’s house, even though it wasn’t in a mandatory evacuation area.

The Klamathon Fire burns in Hornbrook, California on July 6, 2018. California Highway Patrol via AP

“We just grabbed everything you can’t replace or re-buy,” Stanfill said. “My grandma’s photographs, the cat, my sister’s Mickey Mouse teddy bear she’s had since she was little.”

The fire was only 5 percent contained Friday night, but crews had virtually stopped its growth and were focusing on knocking down hotspots that continue to threatened houses and mobile homes, state fire officials said.

Another fire on the Camp Pendleton Marine base prompted the evacuation of 750 homes.

The new blazes came as Southern California saw many areas top 100 degrees Friday and more than a dozen areas got record-breaking temperatures for the day. The weather service forecast called for continued hot weather for much of the area Saturday.

In the north, the fire in Siskyou County on the Oregon border had virtually emptied the tiny communities of Hilt and Hornbrook.

"It moved so fast I'm not sure how much time lagged between the evacuation and when it hit Hornbrook," said Ray Haupt, chairman of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.. "It hit there pretty quick. We know we've lost homes and lots of structures, including livestock and horses as well."

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, citing "extreme peril" to people and property.

The body of a resident was found Friday morning in the charred ruins of a Hornbrook home, but authorities were struggling to identify the body.

No more deaths were expected, however.

Elsewhere in California, a massive blaze northwest of Sacramento that began June 30 had destroyed 10 homes and other buildings but was 42 percent contained, officials said.

California was one of several Western states where recent wildfires have destroyed homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate.

Image: Alpine Oaks Widlfire
Firefighters wait for water as they battle flames at the Alpine Oaks Estates mobile home park during a wildfire, in Alpine, Calif on July 6, 2018.Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP

Rain helped slow the growth of wildfires in Colorado that have burned dozens of homes. But the threat of a deluge raised the possibility of flooding at a stubborn blaze in the southwestern corner of the state.

Officials issued a flash flood watch for the 85-square-mile area burned by a fire that started June 1. They say it is just smoldering and rain over the coming days should keep it from spreading.

Rain helped a fire in the heart of ski country that has destroyed three houses, including the home of a volunteer firefighter battling the flames near the resort town of Aspen. Gov. John Hickenlooper visited the area Friday.

It also offered relief in the southern Colorado mountains where a blaze has destroyed over 130 homes and forced the evacuation of at least 2,000 properties. The Spring Creek Fire became the third-largest in state history at 165 square miles.

In a Utah mountain area, a wildfire that destroyed 90 structures and forced more than 1,100 people to flee was growing, but fire officials hoped to gain more control after their work Friday. Many homes and cabins likely burned, while others may be sheds or garages.

The fire spans about 75 square miles near a popular fishing reservoir about 80 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, according to the Utah Division Forestry Fire State Lands.

It has forced a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 40 to close since Wednesday, said Sonya Capek, a fire spokeswoman. Officials believe human activity sparked the blaze, but an exact cause hasn't been determined.