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Calif. Governor Declares Emergency Amid Massive Wildfires; 1 Person Dies

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A firefighter lights a backfire while battling the Butte fire near San Andreas, California, on Saturday.
Noah Berger, Reuters/Landov
A firefighter lights a backfire while battling the Butte fire near San Andreas, California, on Saturday.

Updated at 1:45 a.m. ET Monday

At least one person has been killed in a California wildfire, The Associated Press reports. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection confirmed one fatality in the wildfire north of San Francisco that raced through dry brush and exploded in size within hours. Two of the fastest burning wildfires in decades have overtaken several Northern California towns.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency as firefighters in the state's north battling expanding wildfires, intensified by a prolonged drought, that have spread to tens of thousands of acres north and east of San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento reports.

Brown said the declaration would speed up the clearing of debris after the fires and waive fees for people needing to replace official documents that were lost in the disaster.

At least 25,000 acres are on fire in Lake and Napa counties and another 65,000 have been engulfed at San Andreas. Four firefighters were injured battling the blaze overnight.

The Associated Press says: "One explosive blaze raced across several rural communities in northern California [Saturday], forcing thousands of people from their homes. Four firefighters suffered second-degree burns and are being treated in connection with a blaze that started about 100 miles north of San Francisco."

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An evacuation was ordered for Middleton, a town of about 1,500 residents located about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Reports are that the town has sustained serious damage.

California Department of Forest Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says winds gusting to 30 mph had rained hot embers down on homes in the Lake County blaze. He said more than 80 homes had been destroyed.

"This has been a tragic reminder to us of the dangers this drought is posing," Berlant said.

Reuters adds:

"About 100 miles (161 km) to the southeast, the so-called Butte Fire has destroyed 86 homes and 51 outbuildings in rural Amador and Calaveras counties, where it covers an estimated 65,000 acres (26,305 hectares), officials said. It is only 15 percent contained.

"Thousands of residents in the area were required to evacuate on Friday, and the blaze threatened more than 6,000 structures, officials said.

"More than 3,800 firefighters were working to contain the fire, which erupted on Wednesday near the former gold mining town of Jackson."

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