SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — A wildfire that has raged in central California for nearly a week intensified under hot weather and has killed one person.
A private bulldozer operator who had been hired in efforts to contain the fire “succumbed to fatal injuries” Tuesday night, according to California fire authorities.
He suffered injuries during night-time operations and his death is under an accident investigation.
The blaze in Monterey County, called the Soberanes Fire, has burned 23,688 acres (about 42 square miles) along the California coast between the scenic areas of Carmel and Big Sur.
Firefighters have contained 10% of the fire, which started Friday, according to Cal Fire.
So far, 34 homes have been destroyed in the fire and about 300 residents have fled the areas as part of mandatory evacuations that have been issued in several communities south of Monterey and the upscale Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Several California State Parks, including the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the Point Sur Historic Lighthouse are closed. Rescuers plucked a group of hikers who found themselves near the fire area.
No injuries, other than one death, have been reported as nearly 3,000 firefighters tried to get control of the fire. Firefighters have been slowed by downed power lines, fallen trees and the sheer size of the fire.
The wildfire made its relentless march down the central coast, helped by the heat and the parched conditions. California has been in a drought for the past five years.
Heavy smoke have prompted air quality health alerts in several regional areas.
Acting California Gov. Tom Torlakson declared a state of emergency Tuesday for the Soberanes Fire as well as an even bigger fire in Los Angeles County called the Sand Fire. Torlakson is standing in for Gov. Jerry Brown, who is attending the Democratic National Convention.
Both fires have had one fatality each.
In Southern California, the Sand Fire has set 38,346 acres of the Santa Clarita Valley ablaze. The fire was 40% contained as of Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters are fighting that blaze.