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California Wildfires: Air Force Reserves Drafted In to Battle Blazes

'Rocky' Fire Takes Turn for the Worse as Flames Leap Highway 1:38

Air Force reserves have been drafted in to help thousands of firefighters battling a raging wildfire in California that jumped a highway which had served as a containment line.

Officials said that more than 9,000 firefighters were on the front lines fighting more than 21 active wildfires. Some crews were igniting controlled burns in a bid to contain the blazes.

Two giant C-130 Hercules planes from the Air Force Reserves joined more than a dozen other air tankers and helicopters on Monday battling the flames, according the NBC Bay Area.

The largest blaze, known as the Rocky Fire, was just 12 percent contained on Monday, California Fire said. The Rocky Fire has burned 62,000 acres of land in the area southeast of Clearlake in Lake, Yolo and Colusa Counties.

Although cooler weather aided firefighters early on, erratic winds later blew hot embers into the sky igniting several fires north of Highway 20 — a major road north of the city of Clearlake and one of the lines crews were hoping to contain.

“It has a mind of its own,” Cal Fire spokesman Jason Shanley told NBC Bay Area, adding that plumes of smoke were helping the fire spread.

Photo Gallery: Rocky Fire Blazes Through California

“That creates all kinds of challenges,” he said.

Short Take: Wildfires in California Send Residents from their Homes 0:45

With more than 5,000 homes at risk late Monday, authorities issued mandatory or advisory evacuation notices for more than 13,000 residents.

Many were amazed at how quickly the flames spread.

“I'm overwhelmed,'' Donna McDonald, of Clear Lake, told The Associated Press at a high school which had been turned into a shelter. “I was very happy at one point when I saw no smoke at all. Then all of a sudden it just flared up real big again.''

The blaze has already claimed one victim. U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Dave Ruhl died in the fire around 100 miles south of the Oregon border on Saturday. Four others were burned in a fire near Sacramento.

In addition to the Rocky Fire, crews were battling 20 other wildfires in California. Wildfires also were burning in Washington state and Oregon as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the West Coast combustible.