Strong winds continue to fuel California wildfires

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"We pretty much lost everything", said Smith, 77, who has lived in the neighborhood with her 80-year-old husband for 29 years. "I see there's a few statuaries in the backyard that maybe we can save".

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of San Francisco were 27 percent contained and have grown to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometers). Some areas on the fire's southeastern flank were reopened to residents. Thousands of people remain evacuated.

The 206-square-mile (533-square-kilometer) Carr Fire 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the OR border was 39 percent contained after destroying 1,060 homes and many other structures. The sixth most destructive wildfire in the state is so big, it's created its own weather system - and it's still going.

Over 4,300 personnel assigned to the blaze have carved containment lines around 37 percent of the perimeter of the blaze. Six people, including two firefighters, have died in the past week.

Winds in the "fire whirl" created July 26 near Redding reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), a speed that rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons.

Gov. Jerry Brown was scheduled to visit the fire area in Shasta County on Saturday. He told reporters Wednesday that "nature is very powerful, and we're not on the side of nature".

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Western Lake County had its advisory upgraded to a mandatory evacuation for the area west of Lucerne at Bartlett Springs Road and Highway 20, south of the fire, east of the fire, north of Clear Lake including the communities of Blue Lakes, Upper Lake, Nice, Lakeport, Witter Springs, Bachelor Valley, Scotts Valley and Saratoga Springs, according to a Mendocino National Forest incident update. Most are in other western states but wildfires have also struck Texas and Florida, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

As a precaution, new evacuations were called Friday for an area of Mendocino and Lake counties where week-old twin fires have destroyed 41 homes and threaten about 9,000 more.

An estimated 14,000 people were under evacuation orders and the U.S. Forest Service said the fires continued to grow rapidly thanks to hot, dry windy weather and tinder-dry brush.

The wildfire has grown to 175 square miles (280 square kilometers) and is a few miles from connecting with a second blaze that has grown to 64 square miles (105 square kilometers).

The new evacuation area extends to the scar of the Pawnee Fire (in black on the map above), which burned 15,185 acres near the reservoir in June and July.

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