Huge fire burns to edge of 3 California towns

By Haven Daley and Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 21 2012 11:46 p.m. MDT

A DC-10 drops fire retardant on the Ponderosa Fire on Monday near Paynes Creek, Calif. Nearly 1,900 firefighters were battling the blaze as it threatened 3,500 homes.

Associated Press

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.

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

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.

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