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California governor declares emergency amid wildfires

More than a dozen wildfires in California, some of which destroyed homes, forced evacuations and damaged infrastructure, prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on Saturday.

The move came as fires in other West Coast states chewed through parched forests, brush and terrain, destroying some homes and threatening many others.

In California, dry lighting, high temperatures and severe drought conditions exacerbated the fire danger.

Brown's emergency proclamation said that the circumstances and magnitude of the wildfires are beyond the control of any single local government and will require the combined forces of regions to combat. To that end, he secured a federal grant on Saturday to cover 75 percent of the cost to fight a wildfire that started in Oregon and crossed into California.

The lightning-sparked Oregon Gulch fire has consumed nearly 33 square miles since it began Wednesday. It destroyed at least 3 homes and was threatening about 270 structures on both sides of the state border, authorities said.

Thirty fires were reported in Oregon over 24 hours, the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center said Saturday.

Further north, a freshly sparked wildfire in Washington state burned down six to eight homes. Dramatic scenes played out overnight as residents tried to keep the flames at bay, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.

"Some great saves were made. Unfortunately, not all the homes were saved," he said.

In California, the scope and intensity of the blazes was comparable to the fire activity the state normally sees in September, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Dennis Mathisen said.

"This is unusual in terms of where we are in the fire season," he said. "The fire conditions are extreme and when you add dry lightning, it's a recipe for disaster."

The fires were burning as far south as the Sierra National Forest, about 70 miles from where another blaze sparked evacuations in and around Yosemite National Park earlier in the week.

One of the most dangerous California blazes was burning in Modoc County near the community of Day, where about 150 homes were under a mandatory evacuation order. It has burned nearly 20 square miles, and was only 20 percent contained.

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