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24,000-acre Ponderosa fire threatening 200 homes

August 22, 2012 |  8:54 am

A massive wildfire in a remote Northern California area was 50% contained Wednesday after destroying at least 50 structures and continued to threaten at least 200 homes, officials said.

The Ponderosa fire grew to 24,324 acres overnight and was burning toward the east and northeast, said Mary Ann Aldrich of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. So far, it has remained on the north side of Highway 36, she said.

The fire is chewing through a mix of grass, brush and heavy timber in rugged terrain in the largely rural area, which is about 170 miles north of Sacramento.  

Officials said 50 structures had been destroyed and many are believed to be homes, though Aldrich said precise figures cannot be determined until it's safe to enter the area. The blaze, which was sparked by lightning Saturday, continues to threaten 200 residences, along with a number of commercial properties and other structures.

Evacuation orders remain in place for a number of areas in the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola.  Evacuation warnings have been issued for California 36 from the Ponderosa Sky Ranch to the Lassen Lodge communities, according to fire officials.  

More than 2,100 firefighters, aided by 11 helicopters, are battling the blaze, which started southeast of Manton and is burning in Tehama and Shasta counties. Firefighters are focused on defending structures and cutting containment lines, officials said.  

Firefighters got some good news Tuesday when Gov. Jerry Brown announced that National Guard units would be dispatched to help the effort. The announcement came after the federal Emergency Management Agency said it would provide federal funds to help offset the costs of fighting the fast-moving fire.

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-- Rebecca Trounson

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