Huge fire burns to edge of 3 Calif. towns

Huge fire burns to edge of 3 Calif. towns

Credit: AP

The burned remains of a home destroyed by a Ponderosa fire are seen near Manton, Calif., Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. More than 1,400 fire fighters are battling the fire that has destroyed seven homes, burned 23 square miles. The fire that started Saturday is just 5 percent contained. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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by HAVEN DALEY and TERRY COLLINS

Associated Press

Posted on August 21, 2012 at 6:53 PM

MANTON, Calif. (AP) -- As a lightning-sparked wildfire raged near Lynn Rodgers' home of less than a year, the evacuated resident said Tuesday she remained optimistic - in spite of her growing frustration and fear.

"Yeah, but what can you do? Everything is in God's hands - and the firefighters," said Rodgers, who lives in Shingletown.

Aided by a shift in winds, firefighters were making a stand against the fire, which has destroyed seven homes and prompted fearful residents to take shelter at a sports complex in nearby Redding.

Since igniting Saturday, the fire grew to more than 30 square miles. Nearly 1,900 firefighters were battling the blaze in rugged, densely forested terrain as it threatened 3,500 homes in the remote towns of Shingletown, Manton and Viola, about 170 miles north of Sacramento.

The fast-moving fire is one of many burning across the West, where dry lightning has sparked up grass, brush and timber, bringing an early start to the fire season.

Like Rodgers, many other evacuees were anxious to hear the latest information from officials. Dozens of people, as well as about a dozen dogs, were waiting at the Redding gym.

"The evacuation part? It's hard because I don't know what's happening to the house up there," said Jimmy Hall, a Shingletown resident whose family spent another night sleeping on cots.

"It's my dad's house...There's a lot of things in there," Hall added. "I've heard that my friend is still up there protecting his house. It's just hard. Look at how we're sleeping."

Eric Kiltz, an emergency services coordinator for the American Red Cross, said "there's more frustration than anxiety, and people, for the most part are grateful they have a safe and secure place to stay, even though their home may be lost."

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that National Guard troops will be assisting with the firefighting efforts. The news comes a day after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is offering federal funds to help fight the blaze.

Remnants of the fire spotted in some homes included melted satellite dishes, burned furniture and charred refrigerators. As the wildfire burned, massive amounts of smoke poured from the forest.

The fire forced the closure of Highway 44 and other roads, and prompted the declaration of an emergency in Shasta County.

Bonnie Maloy, who left her home in Shingletown, along with her husband Bill, described the scene as they fled the flames as "frantic at first."

"Then I said, `Let's calm down,' and we got everything that's important, things we couldn't replace: animals, kids, photo albums," she said.

Rodgers said her family employed a similar strategy prior to getting the call Saturday to leave their home.

Rodgers, her husband Derek and their two sons loaded up their belongings and two dogs and two cats. The family stayed at a motel before joining others at the Redding sports complex Sunday.

Since then, Rodgers said she's staying busy by volunteering and cleaning up around the complex.

"It's our home right now, so for the time being, we should all be appreciative and take care of it," Rodgers said.

Elsewhere in California, a massive wildfire in Plumas National Forest grew over the weekend due to winds. The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, has consumed 79 square miles since it started at the end of July and threatens about 900 homes.

In Mendocino County, the sheriff's office issued a mandatory evacuation for residents in Covelo due to a wildfire that has burned 10 square miles of thick timber and rugged terrain. The blaze was sparked by lightning Saturday in a remote area, making it difficult for fire crews to access.

In Washington state, the National Weather Service warned about extreme fire danger in the eastern part of the state as forecasts called for thunderstorms with lightning.

Fire crews to the north were still hoping to fully contain a week-old wildfire that has destroyed 51 homes and 26 outbuildings, and damaged at least six other homes, fire information officer Mark Morrow said.

The fire, about 75 miles east of Seattle, has caused an estimated $8.3 million in property damage.

Lightning over the weekend also sparked smaller fires in Colorado, Idaho and Utah.

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Collins reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers John S. Marshall in San Francisco, Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City, Shannon Dininny in Yakima, Wash., and Jessie Bonner in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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