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Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fire event’ sets record in state

July 15, 2008

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— As firefighters from as far away as Australia arrive to help exhausted California crews, officials said Monday that the blazes have set the state's record for area burned in a single "fire event."

Nearly 840,000 acres - or 1,312 square miles - have been scorched since lightning storms on June 21 set off more than 1,700 fires.

"That has definitely surpassed any of our large fire events," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

By comparison, fierce Santa Ana winds in 2007 ignited fires that burned some 640,000 acres in Southern California.

Aided by lower temperatures and higher humidity, firefighters are taming the nearly 300 blazes that are still burning. Residents in threatened Paradise, Calif., 90 miles north of Sacramento, have returned to their homes and the city's Feather River Hospital is set to reopen later this week.

Even so, extremely dry conditions throughout the state have officials worried.

"Historically, we see the most devastating fires in September and October," Berlant said. "As we go on this summer, things will only get drier."

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