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Rocky Fire in California Swells to 54,000 Acres

Thousands on the Run as Large California Wildfire Spreads Fast 3:14

A massive wildfire west of Sacramento, California, spanned 54,000 acres Sunday, up from 27,000 acres the previous evening.

The Rocky Fire, in Lake, Colusa and Yolo counties, was just 5 percent contained late Sunday afternoon, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. No injuries were reported, though more than 12,000 people had been ordered to evacuate and several highways were closed, Berlant said earlier Sunday.

Dozens of buildings — including two-dozen homes — had been destroyed, and 6,000 more buildings remained threatened by the fire, which was sparked in the drought-stricken state on Wednesday and exploded in size amid dry, windy conditions on Saturday, Berlant said.

This "is a very dangerous fire," he said.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, and another 6,000 personnel were working to quell 20 additional large fires across the state, stretching from the San Diego to just south of the Oregon border, Berlant said Sunday.

A firefighter died Saturday while fighting the so-called Frog Fire, about 100 miles south of Oregon. That fire was only 5 percent contained as of Saturday night, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he and his wife were "saddened to learn of the tragic death of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Dave Ruhl, who left his home state to help protect one of California’s majestic forests."

Brown ordered a state of emergency Friday night to mobilize additional crews and resources. "California's severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox," he said.

Jessica Schuricht, who lives with her aunt in Lake County, described a terrifying scene that began a few days ago.

California Wildfire Forces Thousands of Evacuations 1:06

"The whole sky was orange and gray," she told NBC News on Sunday afternoon. "Our streets are covered with ash. Our cars are covered with ash. It’s raining black embers."

Schuricht, 27, said that she, like many of her neighbors, have refused evacuation orders, and instead are using hoses to wet down a mostly rural area of fields and dried brush that’s primed to burn. "They’re being stubborn," she said. "They want to stay and fight."

CalFire spokesman Jason Shanley told NBC News that while Clear Lake, where Schuricht lives, was under an advisory evacuation order — and not a mandatory one — he "strongly" urged residents who stayed behind to heed the department's warning.

"We don't do that just because," Shanley said.

Schuricht said that the fire appeared to have advanced to just one hill away, though a shift in wind Saturday night was pushing the smoke away from her aunt's home — for now.

"I’ve never seen a fire move so fast in my entire life," she said.