Wildfires in California, New Mexico
trigger hundreds of evacuations
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[June 17, 2016]
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of people
have evacuated to escape a wildfire in coastal Southern California and a
larger blaze in rural New Mexico as hot weather feeds the flames,
raising health concerns in other regions, officials said on Thursday.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference his
deputies had asked occupants of 400 homes and businesses to evacuate
structures in areas threatened by flames from the California fire.
Campers and horses on ranches have also been forced out, officials
The blaze, which ignited on Wednesday in a wilderness area northwest
of Santa Barbara, has consumed chaparral and tall grass in the Los
Padres National Forest, blackening some 1,200 acres (490 hectares),
according to the InciWeb fire information center.
About 500 firefighters were trying to hold it from exploding out of
control as airplane tankers and helicopters dropped water, officials
"There isn't a lot of marine layer (ocean humidity) so not great
conditions for firefighting," Diane Black, a joint incident command
manager, said in a phone interview.
Winds drove the so-called Sherpa Fire toward the Pacific coast,
leading authorities to evacuate two state beaches and some ranch
land, according InciWeb and the Santa Barbara County website.
The blaze also approached the 101 Freeway overnight, forcing
authorities to close it until Thursday morning.
In New Mexico, the so-called Dog Head Fire that broke out on
Wednesday about 6 miles (10 km) northwest of the town of Tajique has
forced evacuations and grown to more than 12,000 acres (4,900
hectares). Tajique is around 30 miles (50 km) southeast of
Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency and activated
the state's National Guard, ordering the unit to be prepared to
assist if needed, according to a statement issued by her office.
The fire has burned through timber in central New Mexico, pushing
heavy smoke toward cities more than 100 miles (160 km) away as
flames spread through a largely unpopulated area, fire information
officer Peter D'Aquanni said in a phone interview.
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A Hotshots member from the U.S. Forest Department sets a back fire
while battling the the so-called "Sherpa Fire", which has grown to
over 1100 acres overnight, in the hills near Goleta, California,
U.S. June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said his office was evacuating
about 200 people.
D'Aquanni said winds could shift the flames to the east as more than
600 firefighters tackle the blaze.
"There's not many structures in front of that direction if it goes
where we think it's going," he said.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued excessive heat warnings
for areas in the U.S. southwest, including California, Nevada and
Arizona. The NWS forecast office in Phoenix predicted temperatures
as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 Celsius) in the coming days,
which would exceed record highs.
The NWS also issued heat advisories for Missouri and southwest Iowa,
with temperatures in the mid-90s Fahrenheit (35 Celsius).
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Curtis Skinner; Editing by James
Dalgleish and Andrew Hay)
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