Out-of-control California wildfire kills 1, destroys 400 homes, prompts state of emergency

Lake County, California, is on fire
(Image credit: AP/YouTube)

A 78-square-mile wildfire in California's northern Lake County, just north of Napa County, has killed one person, injured four firefighters, and destroyed at least 400 homes and 1,000 other structures, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said late Sunday. The conflagration started Saturday and ignited the drought-stricken region, destroying much of Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake. It is zero percent contained, Cal Fire said Sunday night.

According to Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin, it's "the worst tragedy Lake County has ever seen." The level of destruction prompted Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to declare a state of emergency for Lake and Napa counties, freeing up already stretched resources and calling in the California National Guard. Brown declared states of emergency for Amador and Calaveras counties on Friday.

California is battling more than a dozen active wildfires, the Los Angeles Times reports, the largest of which has torched 203 square miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains east of Fresno. That fire, the Rough fire, started July 31 with a lightning strike, and is 36 percent contained, with some 3,000 firefighters battling to quash it and protect the famed sequoia trees in Sequoia National Forest. You can watch footage of the Lake County blaze in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.