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Wildfires: California Governor Declares State Of Emergency

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California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency over the raging wildfires that have killed one firefighter and driven hundreds of people from their homes.

“California’s severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” said Governor Brown, “Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”

The drought has caused millions of trees to die and that has helped the fires spread throughout the state, according to Brown.

USA today reports:

The emergency declaration, which included the activation of the California National Guard, will speed up help for thousands of firefighters, Brown said Friday.

About 9,000 firefighters were battling 24 large wildfires in California on Saturday, Ken Pimlott, the chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire said in an interview.

Dry thunderstorms were expected to threaten much of Northern California through much of the the weekend, Pimlott said. Thunder storms with gusty winds and lightning strikes have ignited fires, hitting Trinity and Humboldt counties the hardest, he said. Temperatures were expected turn cooler on Sunday, but the state’s historically parched conditions point to an active fire season ahead.

“We’ve had 3,897 fires, compared to the five-year average of 2,552 fires so we are way ahead of the average,” Pimlott said.

The state has called in additional resources from the National Guard and from outside California.

For weeks firefighters have been putting out wildfires as quickly as they spring up, but as soon as one is contained, another ignites, Pimlott said.

“This is a real marathon, not a sprint. Nothing is going to change until we get significant precipitation and I don’t mean individual storms, we need sustained rainfall over time,” he said.

The U.S. Forest Service said David Ruhl, an engine captain from South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest, died while battling the Frog Fire that broke out Thursday in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon. The fire quickly grew to consume 800 acres.

Ruhl, who had been working in California since June, died sometime Thursday. He was scouting the area to find ways to attack the fire when he was trapped in a wind-fueled blaze while driving down a road, officials said Saturday. Crews fighting the blaze lost communication with Ruhl, 38, on Thursday. His body was recovered on Friday.