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Northern California Wildfire Claims 7th Victim


Wind-driven flames roll over a hill towards homes during the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) near Lakeport, California, U.S., Aug. 2, 2018.
Wind-driven flames roll over a hill towards homes during the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) near Lakeport, California, U.S., Aug. 2, 2018.

A seventh person has died in the wildfire burning 600 kilometers northeast of San Francisco, as twin fires burning father south exploded in size, forcing hundreds more to evacuate.

The Carr fire, which has been burning near the city of Redding for two weeks, killed a power company lineman. It has also killed two firefighters and four residents, including two children.

As of Sunday morning, the fire was 41 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. But it has already destroyed more than 1,600 buildings, including 1,080 homes.

Farther south, the twin fires burning in Mendocino and Lake Counties exploded in size, collectively becoming the fifth largest on record in the history of California. Together called the Mendocino Complex fire, they have charred roughly 1,036 square kilometers.

Governor Jerry Brown requested federal aid, saying the Carr fire has done an estimated $98.3 million in damage to infrastructure, utilities and other public facilities.

Earlier Sunday, President Donald Trump granted that request by declaring that a "major disaster" exists in California. He ordered federal funding to be made available to help fight wildfires that are ravaging communities up and down the drought-stricken West Coast state.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," a White House statement said Sunday. "Federal funding also is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the wildfires and high winds in Shasta County."

It added that "damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed."

But with the assistance also came criticism from Trump. The president tweeted late Sunday that the California fires are "being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized.'' He said the water is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Trump also called for clearing trees to stop the fires from spreading.

Fire experts say there are now 17 major fires burning throughout California. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes, and nine people – seven people in the Carr fire and two in the Ferguson fire near Yosemite National Park – have died in the blazes.

California's famous Yosemite has been closed for the past week due to dangerous conditions at what is normally the busiest time of year for tourism.

The Park Service said Sunday that several parts of the popular tourist destination will remain closed indefinitely because of the fire.