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Reuters/Max Whittaker
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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.

Reuters/Max Whittaker
Firefighters working against the Rocky Fire on July 30.

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 as it advances on July 30.
EPA/Noah Berger
Firefighters in Clearlake, California, on August 2.
EPA/Noah Berger
Watching the Rocky fire burn near Clearlake, California, on August 1.
EPA/Noah Berger
The Rocky Fire, from afar, on August 2.
AP/Jeff Chiu
A home near Lower Lake, California, is threatened by flames on July 31.
AP/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/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.
Amid dust and smoke, these goats were set free from their pen near Lower Lake on July 31.
Reuters/Max Whittaker
A helicopter drops water on the Rocky Fire on July 30.
Reuters/Robert Galbraith
Water drops from a helicopter above the Wragg Fire on July 23.
Reuters/Max Whittaker
Flames run up an oak tree in the Rocky Fire on July 30.
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