(Reuters) – Fire crews in California battled on Tuesday to halt the advance of wildfire that has already destroyed about 150 homes, lapped at rural schools and caused power outages that left an evacuation shelter without electricity, authorities said.
The day-old blaze, one of about a dozen major fires raging across the drought-parched state, prompted authorities to order the evacuation of about 1,000 households in and around the Northern California town of Weed, which has a population of about 3,000.
“Weed is a small community, and a lot of people have lost their homes,” said Diane Howard, a clerk for the city.
California’s fire season, which runs from May to October, is already on track to be the most destructive on record, according to state fire managers. In addition to the 150 homes burned in the fire raging near Weed, more than 30 were charred in another blaze near Yosemite.
The so-called Boles Fire near Weed has scorched 375 acres (152 hectares) north of San Francisco near the Oregon border since it erupted on Monday, and has burned down about 150 residences, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Alyssa Smith.
The blaze has forced school closures in Weed, where firefighters managed to save the high school although it is now covered in foam, said school district official Sarah Jasmer. Officials were also assessing possible fire damage to the elementary school.
Power outages from the fire, now 25 percent contained, left a school used as an evacuation shelter without electricity.
The wildfires came as parts of California baked under triple-digit temperatures and the most populous U.S. state grappled with a devastating three years of drought, which has dried out brush and trees, helping fuel the flames.
East of Sacramento, the King Fire raging mainly in heavy timber and steep terrain in the El Dorado National Forest led officials to call on about 400 people to evacuate from areas threatened by the blaze, Smith said. That fire has charred some 12,780 acres (5,172 hectares) and was 5 percent contained on Tuesday.
Nearly 2,500 firefighters were deployed against the King Fire, out of a total force of thousands more battling the dozen blazes burning statewide, Cal Fire said.
Further south, the Courtney Fire in and around the foothill community of Oakhurst and near Bass Lake had destroyed 33 homes and 28 outbuildings since it started on Sunday, officials said. The fire, which was about 50 percent contained, has charred about 320 acres (129 hectares).
In neighboring Oregon, firefighters were dealing with six major blazes and had ordered evacuations of about 40 homes overnight due to the so-called 36 Pit Fire outside Portland, which has destroyed 3,600 acres (1,457 hectares), officials said.
(Additional reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)