US & Canada

California wildfire doubles in size overnight

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set a controlled burn around the King Fire which burns near the town of Pollock Pines, California, US, 17 September 2014 Image copyright EPA
Image caption A firefighter set a controlled burn overnight around the King fire

A central California wildfire threatening thousands of homes doubled in size overnight to 111 square miles (288 sq-km), authorities have said.

More than 3,600 firefighters are battling the King fire, 60 miles (97km) east of Sacramento.

The blaze has consumed wide swathes of timber in Eldorado National Forest and is only 5% contained.

"It's been an explosive couple of days," CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Associated Press news agency.

Widespread drought in the state has fuelled an active wildfire season.

As of early this week, California firefighters have battled more than 4,800 wildfires this year and were currently fighting 11 major fires, according to a local broadcaster.

Many of the people ordered to evacuate their homes were in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A satellite image of the King Fire
Image copyright AP
Image caption The fire has burned national forest land in the region
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Drought has fuelled California's wildfire season

Crews have been battling the fire for five days, but most of the losses have not been residences.

"We have had significant losses of public timber land, private timber land and watershed," Laurence Crabtree, a US Forest Service supervisor told the Sacramento Bee.

Further north, a blaze destroyed parts of the town of Weed, burning 110 homes and damaging 90.

High winds drove the fire quickly across town after it began on Monday. Two churches, a community centre and a library also burned to the ground.

Four firefighters lost their homes.

The Reverend Bill Hofer, pastor of Weed Berean Church, told the AP he was planning to return on Wednesday night - despite an evacuation order - to deter vandalism.

"The more people home with the lights on, the better," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A plane drops fire retardant on the King Fire on Wednesday
Image copyright AP
Image caption A local library burned to the ground in Weed, California

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