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Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 16:40 UK

Crews battle California wildfires

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Planes released fire deterrent fluid in Modoc County

Fire-fighters in Northern California are struggling to contain more than 1,000 wildfires that have been burning for more than a week.

The flames have burnt more than 500 sq miles (1,400 sq km) of land and are threatening the coastal town of Big Sur, California officials said.

President George W Bush declared a state of emergency for the entire state on Saturday and ordered federal aid.

Most of the fires were sparked by lightning in dry wilderness areas.

The lightning storms, on 21 June, were unusually intense, and the flames quickly spread through forests and scrubland that have been left parched by lower than average winter rainfall.

The US Forest Service said it expects a long fire season for Northern California, with more summer storms in the coming months.

Little relief expected

Fire crews are close to getting some of the biggest of more than 1,400 fires under control, California's Office of Emergency Services said.

Map

One of the largest of these is burning close to the coastal town of Big Sur, popular with tourists, about 200km (125 miles) south of San Francisco.

Sixteen homes have been destroyed in the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur.

Other fires have burnt through another 30 houses or other buildings, but no deaths have been reported.

Sections of coastal Highway 1 have been closed because smoke has made driving unsafe.

There appears to be little relief in sight for the more than 18,000 fire-fighters and soldiers battling the flames, with more dry weather on the way, the US Forest Service said.



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