More than 100 displaced after fire ravages California town

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Noah Berger

In this photo taken by a drone, homes destroyed by the Mountain View Fire are seen in the Walker community in Mono County, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

LOS ANGELES – A week before Thanksgiving, more than 100 residents were displaced Thursday by a wind-whipped wildfire that ravaged a remote mountain community in California and killed one person, authorities said.

The inferno struck with sudden ferocity midday Tuesday during strong winds high in the eastern Sierra Nevada, destroying more than 80 structures, including homes, in the unincorporated town of Walker near the Nevada state line, according to the Mono County Sheriff's Office.

By early Wednesday, rain and snow were falling, reducing the fire to smoldering remnants after it scorched over 32 square miles (84 square kilometers).

By then, grave damage had been done to Walker, a community of widely spaced homes and businesses perched in a valley along a highway and the West Walker River, a six-hour drive north of Los Angeles. Homes and outbuildings were reduced to charred rubble. One person was dead, but authorities haven't released details yet.

The same ferocious winds, part of winter-like weather that blew into California and Nevada, also sent a wildfire roaring through a neighborhood about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north in Reno, Nevada. The flames forced more than 1,000 people to evacuate Tuesday — including the mayor — destroyed five houses and damaged 24. People began returning home Wednesday.

Though the fire burned a little less than 1 square mile (about 2 square kilometers), the damage there also was swift and then tempered by rain.

Reno Fire Chief David Cochran said extremely dry conditions helped fuel the blaze in rugged, hard-to-reach canyons that run between homes in the densely populated neighborhood.

The parts of California and Nevada where the wildfires flared are experiencing drought. Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas, which has made parts of the U.S. West much drier and more flammable.