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California Fires Threaten Homes, Force Hundreds Of Evacuations

Firefighters battle part of the Sand Fire after flames jumped across a road in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Sunday. As the blaze changed direction multiple times over the weekend firefighters were forced to retreat and thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from communities north of Los Angeles because a wildfire is burning out of control in dry, hot canyons. More than a dozen homes have already been destroyed and a man was found dead in a car inside the fire zone on Saturday.

The man's home was one of those burned when the fire swept through Iron Canyon in Santa Clarita, Danielle Karson reports for NPR.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department says more than 1,600 firefighters are working on the Sand Fire: digging trenches, clearing brush and working in triple-digit heat to protect homes and businesses. A department spokesman said on Twitter that more than 33,000 acres had been destroyed as of Sunday evening.

Multiple helicopters have been battling the fire from the air, flying well into the night to keep the blaze from advancing toward buildings.

Much of the area where the Sand Fire, named after Sand Canyon, is burning has not burned for decades. Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp says the area was at high risk for a fast-moving fire.

"One thing we've been talking about day after day is the stress of the vegetation; the drought," he said at a news conference on Sunday. "That fire came through like a freight train."

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Firefighters had to cope with heavy winds, with gusts of up to 40 mph that pushed flames into remote pockets of the hilly region. The wind pattern that initially fed the blaze began to shift Sunday, with a sea breeze blowing toward the north for much of the afternoon, then reversing about 9 p.m. The erratic shift in winds pushed the fire northeast... where evacuations were ordered Sunday.

"The weather service forecast temperatures of 96 to 100 degrees in the Santa Clarita Valley on Monday, with winds of 10 to 20 mph in the afternoon."

California is entering its fifth year of a devastating drought. The southern part of the state, around Los Angeles and San Diego, has been hit worst.

Another massive fire is tearing through more than 11,000 acres in the forests near Big Sur, on the central California coast. The Mercury News reports that fire has knocked out power to more than 1,000 people, and Cal Fire, the statewide agency responsible for coordinating wild land firefighting efforts, says the blaze is not contained and hundreds of residents in Monterey County have been evacuated.

Cal Fire's latest wildfire map shows a total of 19 major fires burning across the state, 11 of which are not contained. The most serious fires are burning in the south.

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