A 60,000-acre California brush fire destroyed several homes here yesterday and sent thousands of people fleeing flames and choking smoke, as weary firefighters battled hundreds of blazes across the western United States and Canada.
Firefighters beat back a 30-foot wall of flame on the northeastern flank of San Luis Obispo, but wind gusts sprayed embers over rooftops, streets and yards.
The advancing fire started July 1 about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It is the latest and largest of several southern California fires that have killed three, leveled more than 140 homes and burned more than half a million acres since late June.
Brush, forest and range blazes burned out of control yesterday in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Montana, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon. Other fires in Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming were contained or controlled over the weekend, firefighters said.
In British Columbia, 528 fires burned out of control in an outbreak that has cost Canadians 368,000 acres of forest this year.
The San Luis Obispo fire gutted seven homes and 14 other buildings in its early going, said a California Division of Forestry spokesman. Yesterday morning, erratic winds fanned it into a firestorm that charred at least three more homes.
Classes were canceled at California State Polytechnic University. San Luis Obispo High School sent summer students home because of smoke and approaching flames, and youth camps in the hills were closed. Highways and the airport also were closed, telephone lines were jammed and municipal water pressure dropped as people sprayed their homes.