July 10, 2008

Weather Not Helping Calif. Firefighters

Firefighters battling wildfires in Northern California got no relief from nature Thursday as dry thunderstorms and triple-digit heat were forecast.

The extreme heat and dry conditions favored a 49,000-acre brushfire in Butte County, where firefighters said wind whipped up flames, the air grew hotter and thick smoke blackened the sky Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

So far, the Butte County blaze has destroyed about 50 homes and forced about 10,000 residents to flee.

Elsewhere, fire officials reported progress. While a blaze in the scenic Big Sur area was only 27 percent controlled, firefighters reported gaining on the fire near Goleta, saying it was at least 55 contained.

The potential for more fires was expected to increase as dry thunderstorms were predicted to develop, AccuWeather.com reported.

The winds will die down on Thursday, but dry thunderstorms could produce more lightning strikes that could ignite new fires, West Coast Expert Meteorologist Ken Clark said.

Since lightning bolts first ignited fires June 20, more than 1,700 blazes have destroyed about 688,000 acres, the Times said. More than 300 fires were burning late Wednesday.

Fire officials said about 12,800 residences remained under a fire threat. So far, 99 homes have been destroyed.