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Burned body discovered in path of California wildfire

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The burned body of a 56-year-old man has been discovered in the path of a fast-moving wildfire that has destroyed dozens of structures in rural Northern California, authorities said on Wednesday.

The remains of Brian Henry were found late on Tuesday in an area burned by the Clover Fire, which has destroyed 30 homes and 50 outbuildings since it began in Shasta County on Monday, the local Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

The fire could have caused the fatality, which comes amid a particularly tragic season for wildland fires, but a full investigation was still under way, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Witesman.

Among those killed so far in this year's fire season are 19 members of a squad of elite hotshot firefighters who died in an Arizona fire in June, the same month a wildfire in Colorado killed a couple when flames overran their home east of Colorado Springs.

In California, Henry's body was found during a check on his well-being, the Sheriff's Department statement said. Authorities did not say if his remains were located in a house or somewhere else.

The Clover Fire, which erupted on Monday, has charred about 7,000 acres of remote hilly and rocky terrain. It was 40 percent contained on Wednesday and fire officials expect to control the blaze by Sunday, Witesman said.

Also on Wednesday, San Francisco officials for the first time gave a damage estimate for parts of their infrastructure destroyed by a massive blaze in areas of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

The so-called Rim Fire has inflicted between $20 million and $30 million in damage to parts of San Francisco's water and power infrastructure located in the region, some 200 miles east of the city, officials said.

"It might be even more (expensive) because it's too soon to tell what the total costs are going to be," said San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tyrone Jue.

The Rim Fire, now 80 percent contained, ranks as the third-largest wildfire in California history and has burned about 255,000 acres since it erupted on August 17 after a hunter lost control of an illegal campfire.

The fire has passed through an area containing two of San Francisco's three power generating stations and nipped at the edges of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies 85 percent of San Francisco's water.

Power was restored to one of the burnt generating stations after crews completed repairs on it over the Labor Day weekend at the beginning of this month, and repair work is continuing on the second downed unit, Jue said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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