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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Nation/World

New wildfire spreads at staggering pace in California

By Justin Pritchard and Sudhin Thanawala Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – A wildfire broke out Tuesday and spread at a staggering pace in every direction through drought-parched canyons east of Los Angeles, growing to 14 square miles in a matter of hours and prompting evacuation orders for more than 82,000 people.

The growth was explosive, San Bernardino County fire spokesman Eric Sherwin said.

Mandatory evacuation calls went out to 34,506 homes with more than 82,600 people, Sherwin said.

Blue Mountain Farms, a horse ranch in Phelan, was in the path of the fire – just as it was for another fire in the area a year ago.

“Breathing smoke again, just like last year,” said Shannon Anderson, a partner in the ranch. “It’s raining ash.”

Six firefighters were briefly trapped by flames at a home where the occupants had refused to leave, forcing the crew to protect the house, fire officials said.

Gov. Jerry Brown quickly declared a state of emergency in the area.

As that fire surged, a major blaze north of San Francisco was fading, and about 4,000 people in the town of Clearlake were allowed to return home.

Their relief, however, was tempered with anger at a man who authorities believe set the blaze that wiped out several blocks of Lower Lake over the weekend.

Investigators in Northern California said Tuesday they had been building a case against the suspected arsonist, 40-year-old construction worker Damin Anthony Pashilk, for more than a year but did not have enough evidence to make an arrest until the weekend blaze.

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