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20,000-acre Ponderosa fire in Northern California 57% contained

August 23, 2012 |  8:22 am

A 20,000-acre wildfire in Northern California was 57% contained Thursday after destroying more than 80 structures and threatening more than 900 others.

Nearly 2,500 firefighters, aided by bulldozers and helicopters, were battling the nearly 100-foot flames about 170 miles north of Sacramento. Strong winds Thursday were expected to push the fire northeast, fire officials said.

Evacuation orders have been issued for Manton and the area around the fire perimeter, which begins east of Manton and stretches north toward Highway 44. Evacuation warnings have been issued for Mineral, Ponderosa Sky Ranch and Lassen Lodge.

The Ponderosa fire was sparked by lightning and fueled by dry conditions, but winds have continued to fan it through thick brush and timber, said California Department of Forestry and Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

With 1,400 more wildfires in California this year than last year in the same period, firefighters are gearing up for a busy fire season, Berlant added.

"We definitely have to be prepared for that," he said.

Fire officials do not expect full containment of the Ponderosa fire until next week, depending on weather conditions and continued progress.

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-- Melissa Leu

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