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Page last updated at 21:34 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 22:34 UK

California fires threaten towns

A firefighter uses a special gun to start a backfire on a wildfire burn in Big Sur on 3 July 2008
Officials say they are fighting a "perfect storm"

Firemen in California are continuing to battle huge wildfires which threaten several towns in the US state.

One blaze was raging dangerously close to the town of Big Sur, south of San Francisco, already claiming several houses in the area, officials said.

One firefighter died and thousands of people were told to leave their homes earlier this week.

With a combination of windy and dry weather conditions, officials say they are battling against a "perfect storm".

Nearly 20,000 personnel - including many volunteers - are fighting the blazes, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) says, and a state of emergency has been declared in the state.

Many of hundreds of blazes, most ignited by lightning, have now been contained, Cal Fire says.

'Red flag warning'

On Friday, wildfires were burning across the Los Padres National Forest.

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At least 20 homes have been destroyed and nearly 2,000 structures remain threatened near Big Sur, about 120 miles (193km) south of San Francisco, since the blazes started two weeks ago, officials say.

"We're still in a red flag [weather] warning for this area," Leanne Langeberg, information officer for the agencies fighting the blazes, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, firefighters had made progress in containing a separate fire raging near Big Sur, officials said.

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Aerial footage of the US wildfires

A separate fire around the town of Goleta, near Santa Barbara, has forced authorities to order some 1,700 residents to leave their homes.

In all, the blazes had swept through 520,831 acres (210,436ha), destroying 67 structures, Cal Fire said.


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SEE ALSO
Fires cause California evacuation
04 Jul 08 |  Americas
Crews battle California wildfires
30 Jun 08 |  Americas

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