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Environment

Massive California wildfire that killed 4 fully contained: fire officials

(Reuters) - A massive California wildfire that left four people dead and four firefighters injured was fully contained late on Wednesday, officials said, nearly a month after the destructive blaze broke out north of San Francisco.

The so-called Valley Fire destroyed nearly 2,000 homes and buildings as it ripped through drought-parched timber across Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, some of California’s famed wine-making regions, about 70 miles (110 km) north of San Francisco, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

The Valley Fire broke out Sept. 12 and intensified, becoming one of the two most destructive blazes in the state this year and among the most calamitous in California history.

The current fire season has been especially intense, as California struggles through its fourth year of a crippling drought that has left forestland exceedingly dry and easy kindling for a blaze.

Four people were killed in the Valley Fire, including an elderly disabled woman who was trapped in her home, Cal Fire said. Four firefighters were injured in the early days of the blaze.

The fire, along with another conflagration nearby, the Butte Fire, together blackened more than 145,000 acres (58,000 hectares) while laying waste to thousands of homes and outbuildings and forcing the evacuation of some 20,000 people. Two people were killed in the Butte blaze, which was fully contained earlier this week.

By late Wednesday, containment of the Valley Fire, a measure of how much of its perimeter has been enclosed within buffer lines carved through vegetation by ground crews, was at 100 percent and Cal Fire had issued its “final” update on the blaze, the agency’s website said.

“Helicopters may be operating over the fire area as part of the mop-up operation. Firefighters continue to improve existing lines and mopping up hot spots across the fire area,” it said

The Butte Fire was fully contained earlier this month.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration in September to make federal aid available to residents impacted by the blazes.

Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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