Deadly California blaze spawned destructive fire tornado

Utility worker killed near Northern California wildfire

Utility worker killed near Northern California wildfire

The Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks areas of Lake County are similarly under evacuation warning, nearing the area where the Pawnee Fire burned.

With the peak of the fire season yet to come, it puts California on track for its most destructive fire year in over a decade, in terms of area burned, said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean.

"We're being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons", Governor Jerry Brown told reporters.

Fanned by erratic winds in fuel-choked, tinder-dry forests and scrub, the California blazes have torched 468,467 acres (189,580 hectares) so far this year, destroyed 1,823 homes and structures, and killed at least eight people.

The fire has killed six people, including two firefighters, and destroyed 1,060 homes and almost 500 other buildings, including businesses, barns and warehouses, officials said. Thousands of people remain evacuated. The column of fire produced by "intense rising heat and turbulent winds" was equivalent to an F3 tornado and left a path of destruction - completely stripping bark off of trees, uprooting some others and collapsing power line towers, according to the National Weather Service.

They also report that no civilians or firefighters are injured, although 38 structures have been destroyed, with another 15 damaged across Mendocino and Lake counties.

It ranks as the sixth most destructive California wildfire on record.

They included a bulldozer operator whose vehicle almost slipped off a mountain trail three times before it rolled into a ravine and crushed him at the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park, a Cal Fire report said.

The report says 36-year-old Braden Varney was working alone overnight July 14 fighting a wildfire sparked hours earlier outside Yosemite National Park.

New evacuations were ordered late Thursday at the Mendocino Complex. Varney's radio wasn't communicating with headquarters, so his assistant relayed messages - until they lost contact.

Stealing six lives, the inferno has destroyed entire neighborhoods, with an estimated 1,070 homes burned to ash.

WildfireToday.com reported that statistics from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center reveal that 2017 set a new high in acres burned per wildfire, as well as setting the second-largest number of acres burned since accurate national data were first consolidated in 1990 for 49 states (Alaska is excluded because wilderness fires are allowed to burn).

The report called for better "risk assessment" among firefighters.

In Sierra Nevada, firefighters achieved 41 per cent containment of a 115-square-mile forest fire that has shut down Yosemite Valley and other adjacent portions of Yosemite National Park at what is normally the height of summer tourism.

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