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Firefighters in California battle raging wildfire near Clearlake

Published 04/08/2015

A firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In this Aug. 3, 2015 photo, a firefighter hoses down part of a brush fire near the South Jetty at Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, Ore. Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington state and Oregon took off as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the West Coast combustible. (Joshua Bessex/Daily Astorian via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
A plume of smoke rises above a hillside as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
A burned out truck sits at a residence as a wildfire burns near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Officials called for evacuations Monday as numerous homes were threatened by the flames. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Fire crews walk on U.S. Highway 20 as a fire approaches near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Cooler weather helped crews build a buffer Monday between a raging Northern California wildfire and some of the thousands of homes it threatened as it tore through drought-withered brush that hadn't burned in years. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)
Flames rise from a wildfire near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Officials called for evacuations Monday as numerous homes were threatened by the flames. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
An air tanker drops fire retardant along a ridge to help contain the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
A plume of smoke from the Rocky fire rises behind a fire truck near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
CLEARLAKE OAKES, CA - AUGUST 04: A sign thanking firefighters who are battling the Rocky Fire is posted in front of the Moose Lodge on August 4, 2015 in Clearlake Oakes, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned 65,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE OAKES, CA - AUGUST 04: Evacuated resident Mira Gardner walks her dogs on the grounds of the Moose Lodge where several dozen Rocky Fire evacuees are staying on August 4, 2015 in Clearlake Oakes, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned 65,000 acres and has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE OAKES, CA - AUGUST 04: Evacuated resident Daniel Myers waits for breakfast to be served at the Moose Lodge where several dozen Rocky Fire evacuees are staying on August 4, 2015 in Clearlake Oakes, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned 65,000 acres and has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE OAKES, CA - AUGUST 04: Evacuated resident Daniel Myers looks at a map of the Rocky Fire at the Moose Lodge where several dozen evacuees are staying on August 4, 2015 in Clearlake Oakes, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned 65,000 acres and has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE OAKES, CA - AUGUST 04: An evacuated resident wakes up at the Moose Lodge where several dozen Rocky Fire evacuees are staying on August 4, 2015 in Clearlake Oakes, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned 65,000 acres and has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire as they battle the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter is silhouetted by his headlamp as he monitors a backfire while battling the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter monitors a backfire as he battles the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A DC-10 firefighting aircraft drops fire retardant on a ridge in front of the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter moves away from a tall flame as he uses a drip torch to burn dry grass during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter throws a flare into dry brush during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: Inmate firefighters march along highway 20 as they conduct a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A firefighting helicopter drops water on a spot fire along highway 20 during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter is dwarfed by huge flames during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter is dwarfed by huge flames during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: Flames from a backfire operation burn behind an emergency vehicle near the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: Flames from a backfire operation burn through a grove of trees as firefighters try to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: An inmate monitors a backfire during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: An inmate firefighter shields his face from smoke during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Inmate firefighters march along highway 20 as they monitor a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: A Cal Fire firefighter leads a group of inmate firefighters during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Plumas Brophy Fire District firefighters watch for spot fires a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters prepare to use a flare to start a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Flames from the Rocky Fire burns through dry grass on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Flames from the Rocky Fire swirls as they burn through trees on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: A Cal Fire firefighter looks on as the Rocky Fire burns through trees on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 02: Cal Fire firefighters battle the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 01: Cal Fire firefighters monitor the progress of the Rocky Fire on August 1, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 01: Cal Fire firefighters watch a large plume of smoke as it rises from the Rocky Fire on August 1, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 01: A firefighting air tanker flies in front of the setting sun while battling the Rocky Fire on August 1, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Firefighters in California have been battling a raging wildfire which jumped a highway serving as a containment line for the massive blaze - one of 20 burning in the state.

Cooler weather had helped crews build a buffer between the wildfire and some of the thousands of homes it threatened as it tore through drought-withered brush in Lake County.

An air tanker drops fire retardant along a ridge to help contain the Rocky fire near Clearlake. AFP/Getty Images
An air tanker drops fire retardant along a ridge to help contain the Rocky fire near Clearlake. AFP/Getty Images

But erratic wind then blew hot embers north of Highway 20 ignited several fires across the highway north of the city of Clearlake.

"There were too many (spot fires) for us to pick up," battalion chief Carl Schwettmann of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the San Francisco Chronicle. "With these drought-stricken fuels, it's just moving at an extremely high rate of speed."

At least two dozen homes were destroyed over the past few days and more than 13,000 people were urged to flee.

The fire - the largest blaze in drought-stricken California - roughly tripled in size over the weekend to almost 97 square miles, generating its own winds that fanned the flames and reduced thousands of acres of manzanita shrubs and other brush to barren land in hours.

"There's a lot of old growth-type vegetation and four years of drought to dry it all out," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It was ready to go."

The fire was burning in the Lower Lake area, about 100 miles north of San Francisco and 10 miles from Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake entirely within California and a popular spot for boaters and campers. Fire officials said no homes around the lake were threatened.

Evacuated residents were amazed at how quickly the flames spread.

"I'm overwhelmed," Donna McDonald, of Clear Lake, said at a secondary school that 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."

Firefighter moves away from a tall flame as he uses a drip torch to burn dry grass during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Firefighter moves away from a tall flame as he uses a drip torch to burn dry grass during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Layna Rivas, of Clearlake Oaks, evacuated her home over the weekend and wanted to get back to feed her chickens.

"You have to have that let go feeling and know everything is going to be OK," she said. "My place is going to be safe, my animals are going to be safe."

Lower temperatures and higher humidity on Monday allowed firefighters to contain more of the fire, said Cal Fire captain Don Camp.

"We are hoping we only have to deal with winds from the weather instead of the fire creating its own winds," he said.

Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington state and Oregon took off as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the US west coast combustible. California blazes killed a firefighter last week and injured four others.

Crews in the Lower Lake area conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect some of 5,500 homes threatened. The fire was burning in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills.

A firefighter monitors a backfire during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A firefighter monitors a backfire during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The fire destroyed at least 24 homes and 26 outbuildings. More than 13,000 people have been forced from their homes or have been warned to leave.

More fire crews were brought in, bringing the number of firefighters to nearly 3,000. Two more National Guard air tankers were being brought in from Colorado to drop retardant, Ms Tolmachoff said.

Crews battled 20 other wildfires in California - some sparked by lightning - though none as big as the Lower Lake blaze.

Mandatory evacuations were also in place farther north in a remote rural area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The Lower Lake fire is well short of historic proportions. One of the largest wildfires in California history was a 2013 blaze that took out 400 square miles of Sierra Nevada wilderness.

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