Firefighters battle growing wildfire as it edges near Southern California homes

Firefighters fought to spare homes today from a growing Southern California forest fire, a day after flames came perilously close to neighbourhoods and destroyed one house.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire carved its way along ridges in Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles.

Wellington Fire Service chief Craig Cottrill says the number of people involved and amazing logistics make the job move quickly. Source: Associated Press

Some hillsides were allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.

A ground of New Zealand firefighters are in the US state to help battle the blazes. Source: 1 NEWS

Aircraft dropped fire retardant on flames and homes as people ignoring evacuation orders used garden hoses to spray down their properties when the blaze flared Thursday evening, propelled by 30-kph gusts.

The Holy Fire burned 12 cabins at its origin in the community of Holy Jim on Monday. It had grown to nearly 77 square kilometres by Friday night (local time).

However, firefighters also doubled their containment from 5 to 10 per cent.

It's one of nearly 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

New images from space reveal the massive scale of the disaster. Source: 1 NEWS

Firefighters aided by cooler weather have made good progress against a blaze burning for nearly a month near Yosemite National Park in the northern part of the state.

The park was set to reopen Wednesday after a two-week closure, park spokesman Scott Gediman said today.

Visitors should expect limited hours and visitor services next week as the park returns to normal, he said. The blaze didn't reach the heart of the park and instead burned in remote areas, making roads inaccessible and polluting the area with smoke.

The closure dealt a financial blow to Yosemite at the height of the summer season and caused upheaval for thousands of tourists whose summer trips were cancelled.

Officials also gained more control over two other major Northern California wildfires, including the largest in recorded state history, even as evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 112 kilometres northeast of Redding.

About 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Hat Fire, which began yesterday near a highway.

In the south, Cleveland National Forest officials tweeted that the flames outside Los Angeles were growing as fast as crews can build lines to contain them.

"We continue to actively engage, but cannot get ahead of the fire," the statement said.

The fire was deliberately set. A resident of Holy Jim has been charged with arson and other crimes and appeared in a jailhouse courtroom today.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened.

A court commissioner postponed his arraignment until August 17 and ordered bail to remain at $1.5 million.

"May I pay for that immediately?" asked Clark, who could face life in prison if convicted.

At one point, Clark covered his face with his long hair and later stared directly at a camera providing a video feed to reporters outside the courtroom.

Michael Milligan, chief of the Holy Jim Volunteer Fire Department, has told the Orange County Register that Clark had a decade-long feud with neighbours and had sent him threatening emails last week, including one that said, "This place will burn."

Crews turned a corner in their battle against Northern California's Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest-ever in recorded state history, getting it 60 per cent contained.

The fire more than 160 kilometres north of Sacramento has destroyed more than 100 homes and blackened an area about the size of Los Angeles.


New Zealanders and Australians are tackling a monster blaze in Mendocino, north of San Francisco. Source: 1 NEWS



Former White House staffer says Trump is a bigot in new book

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman claims in a new book that there are tapes of President Donald Trump using racial slurs and that she saw him behaving "like a dog off the leash" at numerous events he attended without his wife, first lady Melania Trump.

The accusations are among a long list of scandalous claims contained in her new book, "Unhinged," set to come out August 14.

The Associated Press purchased an early copy of the memoir, which the White House has already slammed as "riddled with lies and false accusations."

In the book, Ms Manigault Newman, who was a contestant on Mr Trump's The Apprentice reality show and later served as a senior adviser to the president, hurls a litany of allegations, painting the president as scattered, self-absorbed, misogynistic and insecure.

Mr Trump, she said she'd concluded after years of defending him, was a bigot.

"I didn't want to believe it," she writes. "I rejected what other people said about him because they didn't know him like I did. I had to go through the pain of witnessing his racism with my own eyes, and hearing it with my own ears, many times, until I couldn't deny it any longer."

She also claims without evidence that tapes exist of the president using the N-word repeatedly on the reality show's set. She acknowledges she had never been able to obtain or hear the tapes but said three unnamed sources had described their contents.

Ms Manigault Newman also alleges that allies of the president tried to buy her silence.

When she left the White House, she says she was offered $15,000 (USD) a month to serve in a "senior position" on Mr Trump's 2020 re-election campaign. But that offer came along with a stringent nondisclosure agreement that was as "harsh and restrictive" as she had seen while working in television.

After turning down the job, she said she received a "flurry" of letters from attorneys representing the president telling her to "stay silent about Trump, or else."

Throughout the book, Ms Manigault Newman paints a deeply critical portrait of the president, describing him as a man who "loved conflict, chaos and confusion; he loved seeing people argue or fight."

She says she had seen him acting inappropriately at numerous events he attended without his wife at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, including birthday parties, fundraisers and golf tournaments.

She also alleges that Mr Trump has exhibited signs of a "mental decline that could not be denied" and says she went as far as printing out a study linking Diet Coke consumption to dementia and strokes and putting it in his briefing stack.

The White House responded by slamming the book and its author and chastising the press for writing about it.

"Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"It's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform."

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, then an aide to President Donald Trump, watches during a meeting with parents and teachers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. The White House is slamming a new book by ex-staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman, calling her “a disgruntled former White House employee.” (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman. Source: Associated Press

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Man testifies in own defence over 'honour killings' of US son-in-law, daughter's friend

A Jordanian immigrant convicted in two deaths prosecutors described as "honor killings" has testified in his own defence for a second time and said witnesses had lied.

The Houston Chronicle reports Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan testified today he constantly gave other people gifts and treated his daughters "like princesses".

Mr Irsan was convicted last month in Texas in the deaths of his son-in-law and his daughter's friend who had encouraged the marriage.

His first wife and a daughter had testified that Mr Irsan raped them and subjected them to years of abuse.

Mr Irsan is expected to be the last witness in the trial.

The jury must determine whether he will be given life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Jordanian immigrant Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan sits in court in Houston. Source: Associated Press