More than 1,000 homes lost

Endless summer of flame

UPPER LAKE, Calif. — A massive wildfire in Northern California has torched more than 1,000 homes in and around the city of Redding, authorities said Wednesday as some evacuees were allowed to return home and new blazes exploded in what has become an endless summer of flame in the Golden State.

“Whatever resources are needed, we’re putting them there,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference. “We’re being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We’re in uncharted territory.”

Just a month into the budget year, the state has already spent more than one-quarter of its annual fire budget, at least $125 million, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler said.

Cal Fire said another 440 buildings, including barns and warehouses, have also been destroyed by the fire, which is now the sixth most destructive in California history.

The huge Redding-area blaze, which started July 23, forced 38,000 people from their homes and killed six. It has scorched 180 square miles and is 35 percent contained.

North of San Francisco, a fire threatened homes in an old ranching and farming area near Covelo. About 60 homes were ordered evacuated as the blaze erupted late Tuesday and winds whipped flames through brush, grass, oak, pine and fir near the Mendocino National Forest, officials said.

To the east, another blaze Tuesday night raged through grassy cattle lands near Yuba City, covering more than 1 1/2 square miles in a few hours. The new fires erupted without warning and spread with shocking speed through forest and brush that have literally become tinder, said Scott McLean of CalFire.

“It just goes on and on,” McLean said.

“We had this rain at the beginning of the year and all that did was promote the growing of grass and brush,” McLean said. “It’s a Catch-22. It’s growing more product to catch on fire.”

He said the state really never left its drought status and several years of significant rainfall are needed to bring the state back.

The new fire near Covelo was only about 40 miles north of where twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties have burned an area nearly three times the size of San Francisco, destroyed 10 homes and threatened 12,000 more.