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Wildfires rage in Northern California

Wildfires rage in Northern California

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes across California, on Wednesday, as almost two-dozen wildfires continued to blaze amid a record-breaking heatwave in parts of the western United States.

The smoke from the fire area spread as far as San Francisco.

The second was an employee of the utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) who was clearing poles and electrical lines and was found unresponsive in his vehicle Wednesday, Cal Fire said.

In central California, a pilot on a water dropping mission in western Fresno County died Wednesday morning when his helicopter crashed about an hour from New Coalinga Municipal Airport. Climate change is one of the factors affecting this.

"I confess this is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight", he said into what appeared to be a cellphone camera.

California was hit by almost 11 000 lightning strikes in 72 hours, sparking 367 fires, with over 50 structures destroyed in Northern California's wine country where thousands fled their homes, authorities said.

There are also large fires in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, near Salinas, in Napa wine country, around the Oroville Dam and north of Lake Tahoe.

Fanned by "red-flag" high winds, the fires are racing through vegetation parched by a record-breaking heat wave that began on Friday. And firefighters for the first time say they gained an upper hand on the eastern portions of the fire complex, which is now 7-percent contained.

California has called for 375 engines from other states.

"That's going to allow our firefighters that have have been on the front line since this weekend to have an opportunity to take some rest", Berlant said.

Winds gusting to 20 miles per hour (32 kph) over ridge tops could challenge the overnight firefighting efforts in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, said the incident commander, Cal Fire Assistant Chief Billy See. The fires were threatening about 21,000 additional structures, he said.

It is not immediately clear if the man's death is linked directly to the fire.

"After I got the cats, I realized there was very little important to me, and the priority is to try to remember how lovely things can be", she said.

"Please keep the family and PG&E in your thoughts and prayers", Cal Fire said in a statement, adding the PG&E employee was taken to the hospital after he was found unresponsive in his auto, according to KPIX-TV in the Bay Area. Several suffered burns as they ran for their lives. San Mateo County has issued evacuation orders of the towns of Pescadero, San Gregorio and La Honda. Officials warned it has the potential to grow significantly in the next day.

As of Wednesday, over 46,000 acres have been burned and at least 50 homes have been destroyed.

Ferrara said the fire has burned almost 97 square miles within the county and forced an estimated 30,000 people to evacuate from their homes.