U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday declared a state of emergency in California as raging wildfires threatened thousands of homes.
The move made federal funds available to help fight the fires and aid the recovery.
Thousands of people in Southern California were forced to evacuate their homes early Saturday to avoid the Cranston Fire, southeast of Los Angeles. It and the Carr Fire in Northern California were the two biggest blazes ravaging the western landscape since the first outbreak Monday.
A third fire, the Ferguson Fire, was burning in Yosemite National Park, forcing its closure through the end of next week. Park officials said at least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings had been canceled.
Two firefighters died in the week’s battle to save homes, forests and parkland.
The state institution that battles California’s seasonal wildfires, Cal Fire, said on its website that continued hot and dry conditions were forecast through the weekend, which could continue to fuel the blazes. Experts said the fire season began earlier than usual this year.
Last year was California’s worst fire season on record. More than 40 people died and 9,000 structures were destroyed in fires that ran rampant through California’s verdant wine country.
This year, the fires in Northern California have destroyed 500 structures, and officials said 5,000 more were being threatened by blazes. Cal Fire said 10,000 firefighters were on the job.
Tens of thousands of people fled for their lives as an inferno reached Redding, home to more than 90,000 people.
The fire has scorched upward of 42,000 acres (17,000 hectares) of land, Cal Fire said.
Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency for areas at both ends of the state. His request for federal emergency assistance said the aid was needed to prevent an “imminent catastrophe.”
According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, there are 89 active “large fires” raging throughout the country. Five of those are in California.