Deadly California wildfire now 5th largest in state history

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PG&E power company identified the worker today as Jairus Ayeta, who was killed in a remote area of Shasta county where crews were working to restore electricity.

More than 14,000 firefighters are now battling 17 major fires burning across California. Two firefighters and four other people were also killed. The River and Ranch fires had grown to cover a total of 229,000 acres (92,600 hectares) by late Saturday, and were considered 32 percent contained.

This year, California wildfires have burned more land earlier in the "fire season" than usual, said Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director, during a news conference on Saturday.

Dry, hot winds have been fueling the flames. The fires are threatening about 9,000 homes.

Due to the recent containment on the smaller of the two blazes, resources are being mobilize to tackle to the much larger Ranch Fire, which continues to grow to the north and southeast.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans to cover uninsured property loses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster", the White House said in a written statement.

The weather service issued warnings for critical fire weather conditions into Saturday, saying a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region would bring afternoon wind gusts. The declaration makes federal funds available to residents of Shasta County, where the Carr Fire outside Redding, California, has wiped out entire neighborhoods and forced thousands of evacuations.

Cal Fire operations chief Charlie Blankenheim said in a video update Monday morning on Facebook that success against the River Fire was due to "a very large aircraft show" on Sunday.

A new report says the first firefighter, a California bulldozer operator, almost slipped off a steep mountain trail three times before his vehicle finally rolled into a ravine and fatally crushed him.

Lake County Sheriff Corey Paulich said in a press release Saturday that Deputies were dispatched to the Bartlett Springs Road area when three men were being hostile toward fire engine crews.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, told SFGate she is unaware of any water shortages at the Carr or Mendocino Complex fires, the worst fire zones in the state. The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber. The whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes, Dykema said.

Hundreds of colleagues, family and friends attended a memorial service Saturday in Fresno for National Forest Service Capt. Brian Hughes.

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

The new order is for those residents in an area along the boundary of Mendocino National Forest and along portions of the border between Lake and Colusa counties.

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