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Wildfire rages across California counties

A line of fire from the Rush Fire near Ravendale in northern California this week.

RED BLUFF — California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in three Northern California counties yesterday after a wildfire that has already destroyed 64 homes advanced with 75-foot flames on a tiny community at the doorstep of a national park.

Firefighters scrambled to head off the so-called Ponderosa Fire, which had scorched 24,000 acres, before it reached the outskirts of Mineral, a community of less than 200 people just south of Lassen National Volcanic Park.

Authorities issued an evacuation warning for Mineral as flames roared 75 feet high on the side of Highway 36, the main route into town, and burned through a rocky canyon where firefighters struggled to make a stand.

Crews also bulldozed a trench to serve as a last line of defence between the fire and the town as thick smoke and ash choked the air for miles.

“All the vegetation is ready to burn and so once the afternoon winds begin to blow up the canyon, those fuels burn aggressively and you have what we call blow-up conditions,” Chico Fire Division Chief Shane Lauderdale said.

“It pushes the firefighters out of the area they are working and goes over the (containment) line and creates situations where we have to back out,” Lauderdale said.

Beth Glenn, who said her family owns most of the businesses in tiny Mineral, said the town survived a fire that roared up the same canyon in the 1990s, but she worried the Ponderosa blaze could be worse.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight,” said Glenn, 58, whose motel and general store in the heart of Mineral were being used by fire officials to disseminate information to residents.

Glenn said the fire had prompted cancellations for the motel during its typically busiest month of August, and she was forced to tell guests not to come after losing power for five days. (Reuters)

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