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N. California fires burn 1,600 homes – including volunteer firefighter's (+video)

Ten separate blazes burned across California this weekend, including one north of San Francisco that is believed to be the fourth worst wildfire in the state's history.

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    A Cal Fire firefighter works the front lines of a wildfire Sunday, in Carmel Valley, Calif. The most recent tally, announced Sunday, brought the total number of homes destroyed in two wildfires burning in the northern part of the state to nearly 1,600, with five people killed, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
    Vern Fisher/The Monterey County Herald/AP
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Northern California continues to burn.

A wildfire raging north of San Francisco destroyed another 162 homes over the weekend, putting the number of homes destroyed at 1,050 and making it the fourth worst wildfire in the state's history, California fire officials said.

One firefighter lost his home while battling the blaze, said Eric Walters, a spokesman for the Cachagua Fire Protection District.

"I was out fighting the fire on the other end, and then my whole place burned down," Bob Eaton, a volunteer firefighter, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "My parent's house, right below me, it burned down. And my neighbors up on top, their place is burned down."

While firefighters’ response was immediate, Mr. Eaton said, it wasn’t enough to save some of the homes. He added that he had never seen a fire like the one that took his home.

"It just went so damn fast," he told the Sentinel. “Usually when the forest burns, they go in there and it just doesn’t burn this hot and that fast.”

The blaze was one of 10 active wildfires Sunday, most of them in Lake County in Northern California. The most recent tally brought the total number of homes destroyed in two wildfires burning in the northern part of the state to nearly 1,600, with five people killed, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Another wildfire, which started Saturday in Monterey County, destroyed or damaged 10 homes and killed at least one person.

Amid the destruction, however, were scenes of hope. Napa Valley resident and former Marine Greg Candlario, one of the fortunate among the 23,000 residents who have been forced to flee their homes from the deadly Valley Fire, had nothing but praise for firefighters in his area, The Christian Science Monitor reported last week.

“The Sacramento Fire Department stopped the flames, like 200 feet from my house,” he told the Monitor. Mr. Candlario added that he had had to let his family’s livestock loose during the evacuation. When he was allowed to return home, he learned, “to his surprise and deep admiration,” that the firemen had rounded up and fed the animals.

And firefighters made progress over the weekend battling the state’s two major wildfires. Evacuation orders were lifted in Hidden Valley Lake, one of the largest areas ravaged by the Valley Fire since it began a week ago. On Saturday, officials allowed another 1,300 people to return to nearby Middletown.

As of Sunday, firefighters also contained about 72 percent of another blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills that has destroyed 545 homes, killed at least two people, and burned 110 square miles.

Even though it continued to threaten thousands of structures, residents were allowed to return home on Sunday.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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