BIG SUR, Calif. – Crews continued to battle a massive wildfire near California’s Big Sur that is threatening thousands of homes as another one broke out in Fresno County and quickly spread, prompting the evacuation of 300 homes near dry, rolling hills.
The fatal blaze north of Big Sur grew overnight to 59 square miles (152.81 square kilometers), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday.
The wildfire has destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings and is threatening 2,000 more structures. It was 15 percent contained Sunday morning.
More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the wildfire that killed a bulldozer operator working the fire line.
The blaze, about the size of San Francisco, has also scared away tourists who are cancelling bookings after fire officials warned that crews will likely be battling a wildfire raging in steep, forested ridges just to the north for another month.
In Central California, a fast-moving fire forced people to evacuate at least 300 homes on the path of the Fresno County blaze being fueled by hundreds of dead trees. Residents of the rural area surrounded by rolling hills told reporters they scrambled to evacuate with their animals as the wind-driven blaze swept through dry slopes.
The 1,000 acres wildfire started Saturday afternoon off Gooseberry Lane and Morgan Canyon, south of the town of Prather. The blaze was 5 percent contained Sunday morning, Cal Fire said.
The fire is burning in an area with many dead trees, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
“We watched it explode, coming across Old Millerton Road, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Dana Bays told KFSN-TV.
Highway 168, closed from Millerton Road to Auberry Road in Prather, reopened Sunday, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said.
On the outskirts of Los Angeles, crews had nearly surrounded a 65-square-mile (168.35-square-kilometer) blaze that killed one man and destroyed 18 homes. That fire was 93 percent contained Sunday, nine days after it broke out in suburban Santa Clarita and spread into the mountainous Angeles National Forest, officials said. Authorities have not determined the cause.