Wildfires are roaring through large swathes of northern California, razing hundreds of structures and forcing thousands of residents from their homes.
The so-called Valley Fire, the most destructive among scores of fire that have raged across the drought-stricken Western United States this summer, is rolling through the towns Middletown and Cobb.
Officials are describing the blaze as “unheard of” this season, according to Reuters.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in areas ravaged by the blaze, and officials expanded mandatory evacuations as shifting winds sent flames and ash toward a number of towns in the hills north of Napa Valley wine country.
The Valley Fire has consumed more than 40,000 acres since erupting Saturday afternoon in rural Lake County, California, about 50 miles west of Sacramento, the state capital.
Thousands of evacuees from Middletown, Cobb, Hidden Valley Lake and the Harbin Hot Springs resort gathered in shelters, restaurants and friends’ houses in nearby Kelseyville and Calistoga waiting to hear about their homes, horses and dogs.
Middletown and the town of Cobb, just to the north, were reported to be hardest hit by the flames, with large swaths of Middletown left in ruins, according to officials, eyewitnesses and local media reports.
“While crews have not had a chance to do a full damage assessment … we know 100s of structures have been destroyed,” Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said in a Twitter post.
Four firefighters were hospitalized with second-degree burns after they were dropped off by helicopter to battle the fire, authorities said.
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