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Major fires burn across Russia and America

Hundreds of firefighters battled a third wildfire in the Los Angeles area early Friday as two more raged within 60 miles of one another.

The latest — known as the Crown Fire — has ignited more than 5,000 acres, fire officials said.

About 500 firefighters were at the scene, with mandatory evacuations in effect for nearly 2,000 residences.

Areas affected included some parts of Leona Valley, Ritter Ranch, Anaverde and Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County.

Two more wildfires hit southern California this week: the Bull Fire, southeast of the town of Tehachapi, and the West Fire, north of Tehachapi in the Sequoia National Forest.

The Bull Fire is 12 percent contained, and has burned more than 16,000 acres, authorities said. The fire destroyed eight homes and six outbuildings, but no evacuations have been ordered.

Crews continued to mop up a fire line to make sure no hot-spots remain and stop the blaze from spreading. Helicopters and air tankers are on hand to offer support.

Meanwhile, the West Fire destroyed 25 structures, mostly homes. Cooler temperatures and calmer winds made firefighting efforts a little easier. Officials said if the weather continues to cooperate, it would be fully contained by Friday.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for Kern County. Evacuation centers have been set up at schools.

Authorities warned residents to keep their cars and house windows closed to prevent smoke inhalation, said spokeswoman Michelle Puckett of the U.S. Bureau of Land.

Kern County is approximately 130 miles north of Los Angeles.

Moscow, Russia — Wildfires in central Russia have destroyed around 1,000 homes, left five people dead, and prompted the prime minister to call on local officials to resign, Russian news agencies reported Friday.

The fires have been raging in five regions as Russia endures dry weather and one of the hottest months on record. Thursday saw Moscow reach 102 Fahrenheit (39 Celsius) degrees, the highest temperature since records began in 1879.

The fires are the worst ever to hit the European part of Russia, the region west of the Ural Mountains, the RIA-Novosti news agency said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said there have been 21,690 fires so far this summer, 10 percent more than last year, the news agency reported.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Defense Ministry on Friday to use the military to help tackle the fires, the president’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, told the Interfax news agency.

The government has already dispatched additional firefighting units, along with 16 aircraft and helicopters, to fight the fires, RIA-Novosti said.

Putin and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu flew Friday to one of the affected regions, Nizhny Novgorod, where Putin called on local officials to step down.

“I recommend the resignation of the heads of regions (devastated by fire) who have, to a significant degree, lost the trust of citizens,” Putin said, according to RIA-Novosti.

Many residents who lost their homes in Nizhny Novgorod had complained to Putin that local authorities’ actions were “chaotic and uncoordinated,” RIA-Novosti reported.

More than 500 homes burned down and several villages were destroyed across the region, which is about 250 miles east of Moscow. Russian state television reported a mass evacuation effort was under way there.

The five deaths happened in the Voronezh region, about 275 miles south of Moscow, news agencies reported. Twenty-one people were hospitalized there and more than 2,500 were evacuated, RIA-Novosti said.

“I don’t know what to do,” one Voronezh woman told state TV. “Haven’t got any bed linen, cups, spoons, forks left. We’re left with nothing. Everything was burned down. We couldn’t salvage anything.”

Forty-four houses were burned in the Moscow region, state TV said.

Putin said the families of those who died will receive 1 million rubles ($33,000) each in compensation, and the government will pay around 3 million rubles ($100,000) for the reconstruction of each destroyed house, RIA-Novosti said.

Putin said the government will also compensate people for the loss of property, the news agency said.

Temperatures across much of western and central Russia have topped 95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) degrees during the past five weeks, RIA-Novosti said.

Thursday’s temperature in Moscow broke the previous record high of 99.5 Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius), set just three days earlier. The month of July is expected to break the record for the hottest month ever recorded in Moscow.

Temperatures in Moscow dropped to between 82 and 86 Fahrenheit (28 to 30 Celsius) Friday because of a breeze, but weekend temperatures were forecast to rise again.

The hot, dry weather is believed to have made conditions more conducive to fires, drying out large parts of land and making it easier for flames to spread. Central Russia also has large areas of peat bogs that often catch on fire in dry and hot weather.

Watch VIDEO of RUSSIA wildfires here
Watch VIDEO of USA wildfires here

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