The Latest: Northern California fire grows overnight
PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires in California (all times local):
California fire officials say a blaze in Northern California that wiped out a town and killed at least 29 people grew slightly overnight and that strong winds that could fan flames are again expected in the area by Monday afternoon.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Monday the blaze that started Thursday near the town of Paradise grew 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) to 177 square miles (303 square kilometers). It remains 25 percent contained.
Fire behavior specialist at Cal Fire Jonathan Pangburn says the blaze was active all night long and jumped 300-feet (90-meters) across a portion of Lake Oroville at least three times.
Officials say more than 4,500 firefighters are on day four of their battle against the blaze.
After a lull of strong winds that make for dangerous fire conditions, the area near Paradise will have wind gusts as high as 40 mph (64 kmph) by Monday evening.
Some of the thousands of people forced from several communities by the huge Southern California wildfire are being allowed to return to their homes.
Authorities have also reopened U.S. 101. It’s a major freeway artery through the fire zone in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County.
The positive developments come even though Monday’s forecast calls for continuing critical fire danger due to gusty Santa Ana winds and extremely low humidity levels. Those conditions are expected to last through Tuesday and possibly into Wednesday.
As of Sunday night, the fire had grown to more than 133 square miles (344 square kilometers) and it was 15 percent contained.
During the weekend authorities reported 177 buildings had burned but said they expect that number to grow when new damage assessments are announced Monday.
At least 31 people are dead in wildfires across California. Twenty-nine people have now been confirmed dead and another 228 are unaccounted for in a Northern California blaze alone.
Ten search teams were working in the town of Paradise that was largely incinerated last week and in surrounding communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Authorities called in a DNA lab and teams of anthropologists to help identify victims.
Statewide, 150,000 remained displaced as more than 8,000 fire crews battled wildfires that have scorched 400 square miles (1,040 square kilometers), with out-of-state crews continuing to arrive. Fire officials are warning that whipping winds and tinder-dry conditions threaten more areas through the rest of the week.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and said California is requesting aid from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has blamed “poor” forest management for the fires. Brown said federal and state governments must do more forest management but that climate change is the greater source of the problem.