32 structures destroyed in California wildfire
22 September 2014, 13:34
San Francisco - Nearly three-dozen structures have been destroyed in a massive Northern California wildfire that continues to spread more than a week after it started, officials said Sunday.
According to preliminary figures, 10 residences and 22 outbuildings were lost in the King Fire as the structures were discovered in the White Meadows area of Pollock Pines, said Capt. Tom Piranio, a state fire spokesperson.
Assessment teams were headed back into the rugged, steep terrain to survey more damage, he said.
"It has been very challenging to get access to those burn areas because there's a lot of inaccessible terrain," Piranio said. "We had to make sure it was safe enough to enter."
Smoky conditions from the fire also forced the last-minute cancellation of two popular Ironman events in nearby Lake Tahoe Sunday morning, Ironman operations manager Keats McGonigal said.
Poor air quality
About 3 000 athletes from around the world were expected to participate, but couldn't due to poor air quality as the fire spread to the Tahoe National Forest northwest of Lake Tahoe over the weekend.
The fast-moving blaze located about 100km east of Sacramento that started on 13 September grew to more than 332 square kilometres on Saturday despite periods of rain overnight.
A man charged with starting the fire, Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, pleaded not guilty to arson on Friday and remains in the El Dorado County jail on $10m bail.
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More than 21 000 structures remain threatened as the blaze remains at 10% contained. More than 5 000 fire-fighters — from as far as Florida and Alaska — are helping California crews battle the blaze that has not only consumed grass and brush, but swaths of extremely dry tall timber.
About 100 evacuees have been allowed to return home, but at least 2 700 remain under evacuation orders, state fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said. The fire also continues to threaten a key University of California, Berkeley research station that is home to scores of experiments on trees, plants and other wildlife.