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Northern California Wildfire Grows To 30 Square Miles; 50 Structures Burned

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A firefighting helicopter prepares to drop water on the Ponderosa Fire in Northern California on August 21, 2012. (CBS)

A firefighting helicopter prepares to drop water on the Ponderosa Fire in Northern California on August 21, 2012. (CBS)

MANTON, Tehama County (CBS/AP) — Dozens of buildings, many of them likely homes, have been destroyed in recent days a fire burning outside the Northern California community of Manton, fire officials said Tuesday night.

Fire crews assessing the rural area determined Tuesday that 50 buildings had been destroyed, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. The count included buildings burned since the fire began, but officials did not say when the structures were destroyed.

Officials didn’t have an accurate count yet of how many of the structures were homes, but Berlant noted the buildings were spread across a vast rural area of mostly residential homes.

See A Map Of The Fire Area
Cal Fire Updates On Ponderosa Fire

The blaze, which was sparked by lightning on Saturday has consumed more than 33 square miles and continues to threaten hundreds of homes.

Nearly 1,900 firefighters were battling the fire 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.

As a the 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.

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.”

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.

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 continued to expand, helped by gusty winds. The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, has consumed nearly 98 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 more than 15 square miles of thick timber and rugged terrain. One outbuilding has been destroyed and 45 homes were threatened by the blaze, officials said. The fire 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.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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