SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters across the West on Monday kept to the task of battling a summer-long series of raging wildfires, with the latest round sparked mostly by lightning strikes amid dry conditions and gusty winds.
In Northern California, crews struggled to gain control of a rapidly growing wildfire that has destroyed at least seven homes, threatened thousands of others and also forced thousands of rural residents to evacuate.
The Ponderosa Fire, which began Saturday, has consumed more than 23 square miles near three towns about 170 miles north of Sacramento. It was only about 5 percent contained.
It began after the area was hit by a series of lightning strikes, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
More than 1,200 firefighters fought the blaze in rugged, densely forested terrain as it threatened at least 3,500 homes and more than 300 other structures near the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola.
"These are the largest number of homes we've had threatened so far this year, so we're definitely concerned because this fire is so fast-moving," Berlant said. "The grass, brush and timber up here are so dry, and once the lightning with no rain struck, the flames began to spread quickly."
The fire forced the closure of Highway 44 and other roads and prompted the declaration of a state of emergency for Shasta County. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center in Redding.
"We have air tankers, helicopters and bulldozers and hand crews all available to us," Berlant said. "We're using every resource we have to put out this fire."
Evacuee Jerry Nottingham told reporters on Monday that, "All we can do is pray."
Another massive wildfire that has burned in Plumas National Forest since July 29 grew larger over the weekend as strong winds pushed the flames past fire lines on its northeast edge that crews had gained some control of late last week.
The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, has consumed more than 73 square miles and continued to threaten about 900 homes. The fire was 32 percent contained.
Elsewhere in California, a wildfire in Lassen Volcanic National Park was 51 percent contained after consuming more than 43 square miles. Officials expected firefighters would have the blaze contained by Tuesday.
In Mendocino County, a wildfire that started Saturday had consumed about 8 square miles near Covelo. That blaze, which was sparked by lightning, was burning in a remote area of thick timber and rugged terrain, making it difficult for fire crews to access.
Elsewhere in the West
Idaho: More than 1,100 firefighters worked to protect some 350 homes in the Featherville area under an evacuation order because of the 138-square-mile Trinity Ridge Fire.Thunderstorms brought erratic winds and lightning strikes to the area Sunday. But as of 8 p.m., the blaze had made no significant moves toward the recreation getaway in the mountains about 105 miles northeast of Boise, fire spokesman Steve Till said.
Washington state: Better weather over the weekend helped firefighters gain ground on a fire that has scorched dozens of homes near Cle Elum, about 75 miles east of Seattle.
Utah: Evacuation orders were lifted east of Park City as firefighters contained a wildfire near Jordanelle State Park. But crews were dispatched to another blaze Sunday afternoon where 60-foot flames were reported in Daniels Canyon.
The Whiskey Springs Fire has burned more than 180 acres, and no part of it was contained, county officials said Sunday evening.
A helicopter was releasing water on the fire, and tanker plane had arrived to drop retardant. Additional crews were expected Monday morning.
The Fox Bay Fire that started Saturday near Jordanelle Reservoir burned at least 550 acres but was 100 percent contained Sunday. Residents returned to their homes in the Fox Bay, Stillwater and Shores areas, and state park visitors were allowed to retrieve their property.