Death toll from California wildfires increases

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At least five people have died as dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes continue to burn in Northern California.

The latest death of a resident in Solano County on Thursday followed that of a Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker assisting with advance clearing and a pilot on a water-carrying mission whose helicopter crashed on Wednesday.

Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the wildfires, calling them clear evidence of climate change, in a last-minute video recorded for the Democratic National Convention from a forest after he visited an evacuation centre.

He said: “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California.

“I confess this is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight.”

Mr Newsom had recorded an earlier, more lighthearted video, to be delivered at the convention but decided it did not strike the right tone amid his state’s disasters, said Dan Newman, one of his political advisers.

More than two dozen major fires were scorching California and taxing the state’s firefighting capacity, sparked by an unprecedented lightning siege that dropped nearly 11,000 strikes over several days.

The fires were triggered by lightning strikes
The fires were triggered by lightning strikes (Noah Berger/AP)

Smoke and ash billowing from the fires has polluted the air throughout the scenic central coast and San Francisco.

Most of the activity is in Northern California, where fires have ripped through about 500 square miles of brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest surrounding San Francisco.

Extra fire crews have been drafted in to help the effort
Extra fire crews have been drafted in to help the effort (Nic Coury/AP)

Some firefighters were working 72-hour shifts instead of the usual 24 hours and the state has requested 375 engines and crew 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,” Mr Berlant said.

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