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Ponderosa fire in Northern California 35% contained

August 21, 2012 |  7:41 am

Firefighters were starting to gain the upper hand Tuesday on a fire that has burned almost 20,000 acres in Northern California, with the blaze 35% contained.

Three days after the Ponderosa fire broke out, structural damage remained limited to seven homes in Tehama and Shasta counties, where 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate and a handful of roads and highways were shut down.

"It's fair to say that we feel good with the progress that we're making," said Cal Fire spokeswoman Mary Ann Aldrich. "We're going to continue to aggressively attack the fire til we get 100% containment."

Since it broke out Saturday morning, the Ponderosa fire has burned 19,627 acres, more than 30 square miles, of dense forest and steep rocky terrain east of Redding. Nearly 1,900 firefighters have responded to the blaze, which was sparked by lightning.

Fire crews were working to keep the fire from spreading north into Shingletown and northeast into Viola. On Monday, they reported that a portion of the fire had been migrating southeast, moving toward Highway 36 and Paynes Creek.

That led to an evacuation warning, with residents being advised they might be asked to leave if conditions suddenly worsened.

"We'd rather give them warning so they have plenty of time to plan, rather than give them an hour's notice," she said.

Cal Fire issued its encouraging news a day after the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it had agreed to reimburse California for a portion of its firefighting costs. That decision will make it possible for the state to secure enough money to cover up to 75% of the firefighting costs, said officials with FEMA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Ponderosa fire has threatened more than 3,000 homes, 20 commercial properties, a power substation, a water supply and 300 outbuildings, officials said. Residents in Shingletown, Viola and the community of Manton have received evacuation notices.

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-- David Zahniser

twitter/davidzahniser

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