'We could hear the trees exploding': Deadly swath of wildfires the size of Connecticut rage in West

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California firesHolly Brown, among the tens of thousands of Californians who have been displaced, found refuge outside the Clovis Hills Community Church along with her mother, brother and four dogs after being forced from the family farm in the Tollhouse area by the Creek Fire, about 70 miles northeast of Fresno.

“Our entire community is gone,'' Brown said. "Everyone is evacuated. We could hear the trees exploding as this red glow came up over the hillside."

Northern and Central California were under siege as Diablo winds fanned the flames of roaring, historic fires burning virtually uncontrolled. The Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest destroyed more than 350 structures and forced evacuation of over 30,000 people in Fresno and Madera counties, authorities said.

That includes scores of people evacuated by California National Guard and Navy pilots who completed eight trips to the wilderness, bringing dozens of people back each time, Fresno County Lt. Brandon Purcell said.

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