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California fire destroys 3 homes, threatens 1,000

Posted: June 16, 2014 4:54 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2014 4:54 p.m.

Officials have called for the evacuation of some 1,000 homes in Kern County. Above, a helicopter loads up from Isabella Lake Sunday before making another water drop on the Shirley Fire.

 

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (AP) — A smoky mountain wildfire destroyed three houses and threatened 1,000 others despite progress Monday clearing fire lines west of a California lake near Bakersfield, officials said.

At least two of the burned houses appeared to be abandoned, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

One other home was damaged by the blaze that charred about 3.4 square miles of trees and brush in and around Sequoia National Forest.

Southern California Edison power lines and communications facilities were also under threat.

Firefighters using air tankers and helicopters were battling the fire that was about 10 percent contained.

Flames being pushed by gusty winds from the west came within a mile of the mountain community of Wofford Heights, and authorities called on residents of about 1,000 threatened homes to evacuate. Dozens of people stayed at a Red Cross shelter overnight.

The fire broke out Friday night in a remote area about 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield and expanded Saturday as dry winds pushed the flames toward homes, prompting Kern County sheriff's deputies to knock on doors into the night to urge residents to leave.

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze in steep, rugged terrain at elevations around 2,500 feet in a popular outdoor recreation area. Aircraft were scooping water from Lake Isabella to use on the flames. Helicopters flew around the clock and crews were able to keep the fire from growing significantly.

More crews were expected to join the fight. Authorities planned to keep the augmented crews working so they don't lose any time during shift changes to make progress, Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Chapman said.

"It's going to be even hotter and drier at the end of the week," she said.

The Forest Service said that camping, horseback riding, rafting and other activities in the Sequoia district were so far unaffected by the blaze.

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