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Property losses from northern California wildfire nearly double

Updated: 2015-08-06 11:28


A steadily increasing firefighting force of nearly 3,500 personnel was assigned to the Rocky Fire as of Wednesday, representing more than a third of the 10,000-plus firefighters on front lines statewide.

Rocky Fire crews were backed by more than 60 bulldozers, plus a squadron of 19 water-dropping helicopters and four airplane tankers attacking the flames from the air.

Smoke from the fire has been visible up to 80 miles to the south, in the famed wine-making Napa region.

No serious injuries have been reported, but a Forest Service ranger died last Thursday in a smaller fire in the Modoc National Forest near California's border with Oregon.

National forest areas accounted for 14 of the 23 large, active fires reported burning in California on Wednesday.

With wildfire season becoming more of a year-round threat across the West, firefighting costs are projected to soar to two-thirds of the Forest Service budget within a decade, potentially diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from programs to help prevent blazes, the agency said in its report.

The Forest Service, which oversees more than 190 million acres of forests and grasslands, mostly in the West, expects to spend about $1.2 billion in the current fiscal year to fight fires, or 52 percent of its budget, the report said.

Fire seasons today are 78 days longer than they were during the 1970s, and at least 10 states have experienced their largest fires on record since 2000, the agency said.

Growing development near forest land is also a factor, with more than 46 million homes now at risk from US wildfires, the report said.

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