Weekend of windy, hot weather could drive California flames into new areas

Firefighters battle the Ranch Fire near Upper Lake California

US wildfires scorching homes, land - and California's annual budget

New evacuation orders are in effect as of Friday, by the Cal Fire Mendocino Unit.

Its size overtook the deadly Carr Fire, about 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast, which is among 18 significant wildfires burning across California and 106 nationwide.

But tens of thousands of others were still under evacuation orders. Some areas on the fire's southeastern flank were reopened to residents.

The Carr Fire is 39% contained, but firefighters are reinforcing fire breaks to prevent strong, erratic winds from causing it to flare up again this weekend.

There are 14,000 firefighters from California and other states fighting the blazes.

Stoked by drought-parched vegetation and triple-digit temperatures, the Carr Fire has killed six people, destroyed 1,567 homes and other structures and blackened 131,896 acres.

Gov. Jerry Brown at a press conference on August 1 warned that California may be in trouble if these mega fires continue to ravage the state.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber.

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"The fire is still very active on top of Cow Mountain", he said, explaining that while dozer lines held on the west side of the mountain, they did not hold on the east side and the fire moved into Scotts Valley.

The Carr Fire spawned a "fire whirl" of flames and winds in excess of 143 miles per hour (230 kph) on July 26 that had the strength of a severe tornado and uprooted trees and toppled power lines, according to a tweet by the National Weather Service.

Dykema says the whirl started when hot air from the exceptionally hot fire rose and twisted tightly, creating a powerful tornado of flames and wind.

Dykema said wildfires typically create whirls but rarely of the strength of the one recorded July 26.

The "firenado" also left behind damage that looked more like the work of a tornado than a wildfire-tiles stripped from roofs, trees uprooted, cars moved, a transmission tower tipped over.

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.

The blaze has consumed more than 141,000 acres in Shasta and Trinity counties and as of this morning was only 41 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Varney's radio wasn't communicating with headquarters, so his assistant relayed messages - until they lost contact.

More than 13,000 firefighters are battling blazes statewide with the help of crews from as far away as Florida. The report called for better "risk assessment" among firefighters.

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