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Huge fire burns to edge of 3 small California towns

Published August 21, 2012 12:17 pm

Residents evacuated • A shift in winds helping firefighters to keep the homes safe.
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Manton, Calif. • 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 Washington state, a week-old wildfire that burned dozens of homes in Cle Elum, about 75 miles east of Seattle, has caused an estimated $8.3 million in property damage.

Smaller fires are burning in Colorado, Idaho and Utah after being sparked by lightning over the weekend. —

Wildfire update

In Idaho • Authorities have told some Custer County residents to evacuate by Friday afternoon because of a nearing wildfire. To the south, in Elmore County, firefighters were still working to protect two threatened towns from another huge blaze. The Custer County sheriff's office issued an evacuation notice Thursday night, warning residents from Sunbeam Store to Loon Creek Summit that if they don't evacuate by 5 p.m. Friday officials cannot guarantee their safety.

In California • Hundreds of people who were ordered to leave their rural homes because of San Diego County wildfires were being allowed to return. State fire officials said evacuation orders were lifted Friday for about 400 people in the communities of Ranchita and San Felipe. Flames came within a half-mile of some houses but none burned.






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