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Rocky Fire: Large California Blaze Grows, Evacuations Ordered

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 

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One of California’s largest wildfires grew by around 9,000 acres Saturday, as thousands of firefighters tried to tame more than 20 major fires across the dry, drought-stricken state.

The so-called Rocky Fire west of Sacramento swelled to 27,000 acres Saturday, up from around 18,000 acres Friday evening, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

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 Firefighters watch as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, California, on August 1, 2015. The fire has destroyed 24 residences and scorched more than 27,000 acres. NOAH BERGER / EPA

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for some areas close to the blaze that broke out Wednesday, and a highway was closed down as the fire in Lake and Yolo counties grew Saturday.

The fire has so far destroyed 24 homes, the department, also known as Cal Fire, said. The fire was five percent contained. More than 6,100 structures are threatened, Cal Fire said.

Over 8,000 firefighters on Saturday battled 21 major wildfires across the state, which is in its fourth year of a historic drought. Bone-dry conditions are exacerbating wildfire conditions and causing fires to spread rapidly, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said Saturday.

A U.S. Forest Service firefighter died while fighting a wildfire in another part of the state. Firefighter David Ruhl, 38, went missing Thursday while responding to the so-called Frog Fire in the Modoc National Forest, and his body was found at around 9 a.m. Friday morning, the Forest Service said. The cause of death is under investigation.

A spokesperson for the Forest Service said winds were erratic as the fire spread Thursday before Ruhl went missing. The Frog Fire was at 3,000 acres Saturday night.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday. The National Guard has mobilized helicopters and two C-130 air tankers to assist in firefighting efforts, Berlant said.

Firefighters on Saturday were able to almost entirely contain another large fire in Napa County. The Wragg Fire is 95 percent contained, Cal Fire said. It covered more than 8,000 acres and destroyed one home and two other buildings.

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