LOS ANGELES — A firefighter battling a wildfire in California died in the line of duty this week, the U.S. Forest Service said. David Ruhl of Rapid City, South Dakota, lost his life fighting the Frog Fire near Adin, California.
Some 8,000 firefighters are trying to contain 18 large wildfires across California, from San Diego County up to the northernmost part of the state, according to Cal Fire.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Friday to help gather additional resources. The California National Guard had sent nine helicopters earlier.
Cal Fire has reported only minor injuries and notes that most of the fires are over 60% contained. However, the land damage has been substantial in some cases. Fires in San Bernardino and Alpine counties have torched nearly 50,000 acres.
Rocky Fire, one of the largest, is only 5% contained and has burned through 18,000 acres in Lake County. Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says it has destroyed three homes and led to a mandatory evacuation order for about 500 homes (1,000 people) under threat.
The fire’s location in steep terrain is making work difficult for firefighters.
Some Lake County residents are carrying on as usual amid the precarious conditions.
“We can see the smoke and it appears to be blowing near us but there are no evacuations here that I know of. We are open for business and hoping the wind blows the other way because we have two tournaments tomorrow,” says Ted Mattila of Buckingham Golf and Country Club in Kelseyville.
California’s record-setting drought, entering its fourth year, has “turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” says Brown.
Temperatures in Sacramento and other areas of Northern California, where many of the fires are located, have topped 100 degrees recently. And while temperatures are cooling this weekend in Lake County, “conditions are so dry from the drought that won’t do much to stop the fire,” said Berlant. His department is urging extra caution for residents and visitors.