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Heat relief on the way for California firefighters

Santa Barbara County officials declared a local emergency on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire destroyed 20 homes and other structures and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

Firefighters spray foam on the remains of a destroyed home in the aftermath of the Holiday Fire on 7 July 2018 in Goleta, California. Picture: AFP

LOS ANGELES - Cooler temperatures will bring some relief to firefighters battling California wildfires, but not until later in the week, the National Weather Service said.

“No luck today, but starting Monday, we’re going to see a gradual cool down, as we shave just a few degrees off each day until about midweek it gets to something like normal, in the mid-90s (Fahrenheit) inland and 80s at the coast,” said Jim Hayes of the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland.

“Today it’s going to be another miserable, hot, dry day,” he said early Sunday, noting that temperatures in some areas inland will hit triple digits.

Santa Barbara County officials declared a local emergency on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire destroyed 20 homes and other structures and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen major blazes burning across the US West, broke out on Friday evening near the beach community of Goleta, California, South of Santa Barbara, and raced through the seaside foothills.

The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power, prompting the emergency declaration which frees additional funds for the firefighting effort.

As of early Sunday, the Holiday Fire burned through more than 100 acres and was 80% contained, officials posted on the Internet.

Dozens of blazes have broken out across the western United States, fanned by scorching heat, winds and low humidity in a particularly intense fire season.

This year’s fires had burned more than 1.17 million hectares through Friday, already more than the annual average of about 971,000 hectares over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Friday, the remains of an unidentified person were found near a home burned to the ground by the Klamathon fire, which broke out on Thursday near California’s border with Oregon. It marked the first fatality of the fire season in California.

The Klamathon, which has destroyed 15 structures and blackened nearly 8,900 hectares, was 20% contained as of early Sunday, a spokeswoman said.

Elsewhere in Northern California, the County Fire has charred 35,764 hectares in sparsely populated wooded areas of Napa and Yolo Counties.

Some 3,660 firefighters faced with inaccessible terrain, high temperatures and low humidity, were battling the fire, which was only 48% contained. It has destroyed 10 structures, damaged two and threatened 110.

In Colorado, officials said fire crews had made “much progress” battling the Spring Creek fire, which broke out on 27 June and has consumed 43,295 hectares. It was 43% contained on Saturday, the officials said.