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Huge Ponderosa fire chases residents out of their homes

August 19, 2012 |  7:42 pm

Residents described being chased from their homes by a 12,000-acre wildfire southeast of Redding.

About 2,000 people have been ordered evacuated in the Ponderosa fire, and Shasta County officials have declared a state of emergency.

The fire has destroyed seven homes and threatens 3,000 residences, said Mary Ann Aldrich, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Nearly 1,000 firefighters have yet to make a dent in containing the fire, she said.

The fire began in Tehama County about 11:30 a.m. Saturday and spread into Shasta County, Aldrich said. It was less than a mile from California 44 on Sunday afternoon, spreading north-northeast toward the communities of Shingletown and Viola. Fire crews have sent three water-dropping helicopters to the blaze.

The Red Cross has opened an evacuation center in Redding. Public safety agencies have closed the highway from Viola to Brush Oak. California 299 has been recommended as an alternate route.

Manton Road and all roads leading in and out of Manton also have been shut down. 

John Cluff told the Redding Record-Searchlight that he fled his home, then went back to get his dog.

“The fire basically chased me out of the property,” he told the paper. “All I could see was black smoke and flames.”

The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

Wildfires have burned nearly 5,000 acres to the north in Siskiyou County, according to the state fire agency. The so-called Fort Complex fire is burning near the Oregon border.

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-- David Zahniser and Shelby Grad

twitter.com/davidzahniser

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