Fire crews drop water unto the Ponderosa Fire from a helicopter near Mineral, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. The Ponderosa Fire was 57 percent contained, with full containment expected early next week. The blaze threatened 900 other homes Thursday as it burned a new front to the south. More than 2,500 firefighters are battling the wildfire, which grew to 44 square miles in the hills about 25 miles southeast of Redding. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
MANTON, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters in Northern California on Monday struggled to gain control of a growing wildfire that has destroyed at least seven homes and forced thousands of rural residents to evacuate.
The blaze that started Saturday has consumed more than 23 square miles near the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola near the border of Tehama and Shasta counties. It was only about 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Ponderosa fire threatens at least 3,000 homes and more than 300 other structures, said fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the wildfire burning in rugged, densely forested terrain about 170 miles north of Sacramento. It started after the area was hit by a series of lightning strikes.
The fire forced the closure of Highway 44 and some local roads and prompted the sheriff to declare a State of Emergency for Shasta County. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center in Redding.
John Cluff, 42, told the Redding Searchlight that he was forced to flee his home before the evacuations were issued. He went back for his dog about 3:30 p.m.
"The fire basically chased me out of the property," he said. "All I could see was black smoke and flames."
The Ponderosa fire is one of many wildfires burning across California and the West.
In Mendocino County, another wildfire that started Saturday has consumed about 8 square miles near Covelo. That blaze, which was sparked by lightning, was burning in a remote area of thick timber and rugged terrain, making it difficult for fire crews to access.
Meanwhile, a massive wildfire that has been burning in the Plumas National Forest since July 29 grew larger over the weekend as strong winds pushed the flames past fire lines on its northeast edge.
The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, has consumed more than 73 square miles and continued to threaten about 900 homes. The fire was 32 percent contained Monday.
Also in California, a wildfire in Lassen Volcanic National Park was 51 percent contained after consuming more than 43 square miles. Officials expected firefighters would have the blaze contained by Tuesday.