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WILDFIRES | California

Firefighters gain on California blazes as heat wave breaks

News Agency

Monday, August 13, 2018, 18:58 - A break in the sizzling heat wave that has baked California for much of the summer gave firefighters a chance to attack a string of major wildfires burning across the state that have killed eight people and destroyed thousands of homes.

The cooler temperatures came during a two-day tour of devastated neighborhoods by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Zinke told local KRCR-TV during the visit that the intensity of this year's fire season showed the need for clearing underbrush and removing dead trees.

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FILE PHOTO: Firefighter fight fire near torching trees as wildfire burns near Yosemite National Park in this US Forest Service photo released on social media from California, U.S., August 6, 2018. Courtesy USFS/Yosemite National Park/Handout via REUTERS

"We have to remove the dead and dying trees and restore health to our forests,” he told the station. Zinke and Perdue were also expected to meet with fire officials.

Some 110 major wildfires are burning across the western United States during an unusually active fire year that has so far burned more than 8,900 square miles (23,000 square kilometers), an area larger than the state of New Jersey, according to National Interagency Fire Center.

The fires have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and shuttered national parks.

A plane flies off after dumping fire retardant over the Holy Fire close to a residential area in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Camille Collins/via REUTERS

As of Monday afternoon the nearly 203,000-acre (82,000-hectare) Carr Fire, which has killed eight people, was 61 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 130 miles (160 km) away, the Mendocino Complex Fire, California's largest-ever wildfire, was 68 percent contained after charring some 344,000 acres Cal Fire said.

But the increasing containment did not necessarily mean the wildfire season was quieting down, Cal Fire spokesman Cary Wright said in a phone interview.

FILE PHOTO: A firetruck rushes past flames that overran a road at the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) in Lakeport, California, U.S. July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

"A lot of this is determined based on the drought, Mother Nature, what kind of winds we get," Wright said. "With low humidity, high heat and low moisture, fire season just seems to be getting longer and longer."

Temperatures were expected to remain at above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) through Friday in northern California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Makini Brice in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Susan Thomas and David Gregorio)


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