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Photos: Stunning images of California’s 21 wildfires show nature’s terrible beauty in action

When California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency this weekend (Aug. 1), he said that severe drought and recent extreme weather have turned the state into a “tinderbox.” There are 21 wildfires raging throughout California today (Aug. 3), with many of them sparked by lightning strikes.

Photographers on the scenes are documenting the destruction of buildings and roads, dangerous work by firefighters, and otherworldly landscapes transformed by smoke and embers.

Firefighters work to dig a fire line on the Rocky Fire in Lake County, California July 30, 2015. The Rocky Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Lake County, 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. By Thursday morning it had spread to 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.  REUTERS/Max Whittaker - RTX1MMTD
Firefighters working against the Rocky Fire on July 30. (Reuters/Max Whittaker)

The Rocky Fire, California’s largest blaze right now, started on July 29 in Lake County, approximately 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. It has since spread to three counties, burned 54,000 acres of land in five days, and prompted the mandatory evacuation of 12,000 residents.

Firefighters watch the Rocky Fire advance in Lake County, California
Firefighters watch the Rocky Fire as it advances on July 30.
California wildfire in Lake County
Firefighters in Clearlake, California, on August 2. (EPA/Noah Berger)
epa04869472 Firefighters watch as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, California, USA, 01 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 25,750 acres according to Cal Fire. Thousands of firefighters battle blazes in northern California, where record heat and dry conditions were complicating efforts to extinguish them. 
More than 20 large wildfires are burning in the state, many caused by lightning strikes. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, saying severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox.  EPA/NOAH BERGER
Watching the Rocky fire burn near Clearlake, California, on August 1. (EPA/Noah Berger)
epaselect epa04870380 Firefighters monitor the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California, USA, 2 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 54,000 acres according to Cal Fire.  EPA/NOAH BERGER
The Rocky Fire, from afar, on August 2. (EPA/Noah Berger)
Fires approach a home near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A home near Lower Lake, California, is threatened by flames on July 31. (AP/Jeff Chiu)
A small patch of flames of the Kyburz fire burns along Highway 50 near Kyburz, Calif., Friday, July 24, 2015. Crews on Friday had partially surrounded the fire that shut down a highway linking Sacramento and Reno, Nevada, and led to a handful of evacuations. The blaze broke out Thursday afternoon near South Lake Tahoe and has charred more than 100 acres in heavy timber along steep canyon walls. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A patch of flames in the Kyburz Fire on July 24, near South Lake Tahoe. The Kyburz Fire shut down a major highway between California and Nevada. (AP/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this Friday, July 17, 2015 photo, the North Fire continues to burn along Baldy Mesa Road late Friday night near Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, Calif. The 5.5-square-mile fire destroyed 20 vehicles on the freeway before burning three homes and 44 more vehicles in the community of Baldy Mesa. (AP Photo/Kevin Warn)
The North Fire in San Bernardino County, shown here on July 17, destroyed dozens of cars on the local highway and in the community of Baldy Mesa. (AP/Kevin Warn)
Goats run from a pen after being released by Cal Fire engineer Johnny Miller at a property off of Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. The golden hills of California were being blackened Friday by a series of wildfires egged on by bone-dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Amid dust and smoke, these goats were set free from their pen near Lower Lake on July 31.
A helicopter drops water on the Rocky Fire in Lake County, California July 30, 2015. The Rocky Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Lake County, 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. By Thursday morning it had spread to 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.  REUTERS/Max Whittaker - RTX1MHKA
A helicopter drops water on the Rocky Fire on July 30. (Reuters/Max Whittaker)
A helicopter drops water on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith - RTX1LLD0
Water drops from a helicopter above the Wragg Fire on July 23. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
An oak tree ignites at the Rocky Fire in Lake County, California July 30, 2015. The Rocky Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Lake County, 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. By Thursday morning it had spread to 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. REUTERS/Max Whittaker - RTX1MHJQ
Flames run up an oak tree in the Rocky Fire on July 30. (Reuters/Max Whittaker)
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