SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Firefighters made progress against raging fires in northern California Wednesday as state Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said more than 700 blazes remained alight across the region.
Schwarzenegger told reporters in Big Sur, south of San Francisco, that more than 149,000 acres (60,300 hectares) had been scorched so far, destroying nearly 40 structures and forcing the evacuation of more than 900 people.
A total of 7,000 firefighters, 536 engines and more than 50 aircraft had been deployed to pummel the flames, many of which were triggered last week when lightning from thunderstorms struck tinder-dry forest land.
"There's still 700 fires left all over the state of California. You get stretched thin with the resources," Schwarzenegger said.
"I just took off with the plane from Los Angeles and all the way from Los Angeles there was smoke everywhere," he added.
Earlier, a spokesman for the California Department of Foresty and Fire Protection (CALFIRE), said around 260 of the fires had been contained.
"A good proportion of them are contained, some are still burning," Calfire spokesman Daniel Berlant told AFP. "Things are looking better, but we have still others burning and threatening homes."
Lightning strikes have sparked nearly 1,000 wildfires since Saturday, Berlant said. Progress was also reported in areas under federal jurisdiction.
The fires have not killed anyone, but 23 homes have been destroyed and thousands are still threatened by the blazes.
"It's amazing that (with) all of these fires so few structures were burned," Berlant said. "It shows you how hard our firefighters are working."
Temperatures have dropped in the last two days, helping their cause following a weekend heatwave.
"Right now, the weather is a lot more favorable than it has been. We have cooler temperatures," Berlant said. But, he added, "there's some concern about more lightning strikes because of a system coming on Thursday night."
Schwarzenegger declared a state-wide drought on June 4 amid record low rainfalls in the most populated US state.
California is frequently hit by scorching wildfires due to its dry climate, Santa Ana winds and recent housing booms which have seen housing spread rapidly into rural and densely forested areas.
Last October, devastating wildfires were among the worst in California history, leaving eight people dead, destroying 2,000 homes, displacing 640,000 people and causing one billion dollars in damage.
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