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California wildfire forces evacuations

/ Source: The Associated Press

A stubborn wildfire crept closer to homes and ranches east of Santa Barbara’s wine country Monday, forcing about 200 residents to leave.

Officials issued the evacuation order Monday evening when the 36-square-mile blaze in the Los Padres National Forest came within about two miles of some homes, said Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Eli Iskow.

A voluntary evacuation order also was issued for another 1,000 residents living in and around Los Olivos, he said.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the 23,000-acre blaze in steep terrain covered with chapparal and oak trees in the San Rafael Wilderness. The wilderness and surrounding areas remained closed to visitors.

To the north, near the Oregon border, crews used bulldozers and hand tools to clear a break in thick forest near Happy Camp. Residents were told to prepare for evacuations as the lightning-ignited blaze bore down on more than 300 homes.

That fire covered more than 4,700 acres — about 7 square miles — in the Klamath National Forest, officials said. More than 1,100 firefighters were working to contain the fire, which was about 15 percent surrounded.

In Nevada, a fast-moving wildfire fanned by gusty winds briefly threatened hundreds of upscale homes Monday and forced many residents to evacuate, officials said.

The smoky blaze burned at least 120 acres of brush and some timber, said Reno Fire Department spokesman Steve Frady. Homes in the area range in value from $600,000 to multimillion-dollar estates.

The fire was burning away from homes by sundown, and evacuation orders were lifted by 7 p.m. except for residents closest to the fire line.

“Firefighters did a tremendous job in holding the fire from the residences,” Frady said.

In Washington state, a blaze sparked by lightning grew to more than 12 square miles and threatened about 30 homes. Deputies were contacting homeowners and urging some of them to leave.

About 200 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling the blaze, which was about 10 percent contained. More fire crews were expected to help.

In Utah, the state’s largest wildfire ever was fully contained Monday after scorching 567 square miles, despite isolated flare-ups within the containment zone. Utah’s five other major wildfires were either fully contained or close to it Monday, officials said.

Higher winds and thunderstorms were also expected to boil up throughout much of Utah early this week. The thunderstorms could bring some rain or just dry lightning, which could spark new fires.