Northern California’s wildfires have destroyed 500 structures, and officials say 5,000 more are threatened by the massive blaze.

Two firefighters have died combating the so-called Carr Fire.

Thousands of people fled for their lives as the inferno reached the city of Redding, home to more than 90,000 people. Tens of thousands were under evacuation orders.

The fire has scorched upward of 17,000 hectares of land, the state’s forestry and fire protection department, Cal Fire said.

Tourists and hikers whose vacation plans included visiting Yosemite National Park are making other plans because of the raging Ferguson Fire. The park has been closed since July 25 and is not expected to re-open until August 3.

Park officials say at least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings have been canceled.

The winds fanning the flames of the fire in Northern California have been so strong in some areas that trees have been uprooted.

Chad Carroll, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said many of the airborne trees have landed on homes.

Southern California

In Southern California, the Cranston Fire, believed to be caused by arson, forced about 12,000 residents of the town of Idyllwild to evacuate. Authorities have arrested a suspect in the fire.

Governor Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency for areas on both ends of the state. His request for federal emergency assistance said the aid was needed to prevent an “imminent catastrophe.”

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the U.S. government agency dedicated to coordinating federal response to fires, said the 2018 start of California’s fire season is the worst in a decade with 117,248 hectares scorched by Friday morning.

According to NIFC, there are 89 active large fires raging throughout the country. Five of those are in California.

Allie Weill, a fire behavior researcher at the University of California, Davis, told VOA that California is a ripe environment for fires because of its climate: the bulk of its precipitation comes in the winter and little in the summer.

“The conditions that will carry a fire are just starting earlier and lasting longer,” Weill said. “Usually we don’t see the big fires until later in the [summer].”

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