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High winds stoke fires across northern Calif.

Winds complicated attempts to put down several fast-growing wildfires across Northern California, including a blaze that now threatens 4,600 structures.
Firefighter Kim Deseni of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tackles a hot spot on the Humboldt Fire near Paradise, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

High winds on Saturday continued to stoke fires across Northern California that had destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of residents to flee.

At least 74 homes had been destroyed with 20 others damaged in the Butte County town of Paradise, about 90 miles north of Sacramento. The fire had contributed to at least one death — an elderly woman who suffered a heart attack while evacuating.

Only 45 percent of the fire was contained Saturday, and it had charred more than 36 square miles. Five firefighters suffered minor injuries.

That blaze was just one of a series vexing firefighters across Northern California. A wildfire in Monterey County continued to chew through the Los Padres National Forest, and flames in the Santa Cruz County kept hundreds of residents away from their mountain homes.

In recent days, high temperatures, steady wind and tinder-dry vegetation have contributed to destructive blazes around the state.

In Santa Cruz County, firefighters got a handle on a wildfire that has charred 1 square mile and burned at least 10 homes in the Bonny Doon community. An evacuation order remained in effect for some areas where firefighters were still trying to rein in a blaze that was 75 percent contained.

The causes of all the California blazes remain under investigation.

In southeastern Colorado, about 290 firefighters battled a wildfire that had spread over 65 square miles in and around a military training site. Aided by calming wind, the firefighters were able to get the fire 10 percent contained, fire management team spokesman Steve Segin said.

"They've got a lot of work ahead of them," Segin said.

The fire started in the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site but spread to surrounding federal, state and private land after two straight days of strong wind. It was threatening eight ranch homes.

Elsewhere, in eastern North Carolina, areas north of a fire around the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge were under the most severe air pollution warning the state has ever issued. The warning includes the cities of Edenton and Elizabeth City.

The fire has charred over 62 square miles and was only 40 percent. Fire spokesman Dean McAlister said firefighters expect it will continue to smolder until the area gets enough rain to soak the peat soil.