Josh Edelson/AP
A firefighter lights a backfire as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Aug. 3.

California Wildfires Devour 134,000 Acres, Prompt State of Emergency

ICTMN Staff
8/3/15

Fires whipping across Northern California have consumed more than 134,000 acres as firefighters struggle to contain them while mourning one of their own, killed in the line of duty.

The largest blaze by far, at 60,000 acres, the Rocky Fire doubled in size over the weekend and as of Monday August 3 was 12 percent contained. Full containment is not expected until August 10, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

Evacuation orders were in place for thousands of people as the fire threatened areas near Clear Lake, where many California tribal communities are situated. On July 31 Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in order to facilitate firefighting and relief efforts.

"California's severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox," he said in a statement. "Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines, and we'll do everything we can to help them."

Just a few hours later Brown’s words took on added resonance with the death of South Dakota firefighter David Ruhl, 38, who was on loan from the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota when he died while on assignment at the Frog Fire in the Modoc National Forest outside Alturas, California.

“Firefighter Ruhl will be remembered for his service and bravery, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues with the U.S. Forest Service,” Brown said as he directed the capitol to put its flags at half-staff in Ruhl’s honor.

Statewide the acreage toll exceeded 209 square miles total, with more than 9,300 firefighters battling at least 21 blazes, CNN reported.

"This has been a very fast-moving wildfire with the dry conditions, and the weather not really cooperating with us over the past week," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said, according to CNN.

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