An out-of-control wildfire that was threatening more than 2,000 homes in Northern California showed explosive growth, consuming tens of thousands of additional acres, fire officials said Thursday.
The fire east of Sacramento had burned through 111 square miles, up from 44 square miles on Wednesday when it forced additional evacuations, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was only 5 percent contained.
Most of the threatened homes were in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento. Hundreds of them were under evacuation orders, but it wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many.
Much of the fire growth on Wednesday was to the northwest, away from the town, according to Cal Fire.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday, freeing up funds for the two fires. Brown had also secured federal grants to fight each of them.
Fire crews might get some help from the weather on Thursday, with the forecast calling for higher humidity and the possibility of rain.
Meanwhile, further north in the town of Weed, where a blaze began Monday and raged across the community, teams of firefighters went house-to-house Wednesday to pin down damage by a wildfire that officials estimated had destroyed 110 homes and damaged another 90.
The new figures were a marked increase from the initial estimate that a total of 150 structures had been destroyed or damaged in the blaze that rapidly swept across the town. Four firefighters lost their homes.
Two churches, a community center and the library also burned to the ground, while an elementary school and the city’s last wood-products mill were damaged by flames that had been pushed by 40-mph winds.
Insurance companies worked to find places to live for the people who lost their homes.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation. It was 60 percent contained after burning 375 acres.
Burned neighborhoods remained off-limits, but people have been finding ways in.
The Rev. Bill Hofer, pastor of Weed Berean Church, said power was back on in his home, which was still standing on the edge of the devastation zone, and he was planning to return Wednesday night – despite the evacuation order – to deter vandalism.
“The more people home with the lights on, the better,” he said.
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