Fast-moving California wildfire threatens rural community

(Reuters) - A fast-moving wildfire that has already destroyed 22 structures and is being driven by erratic winds and high temperatures forced some 3,000 people to flee as it threatened to cut off access to a rural community in Northern California on Monday.

The so-called Pawnee Fire, which broke out on Saturday near the Mendocino National Forest 70 miles (112 km) northwest of Sacramento, had charred more than 8,200 acres (3,320 hectares) as of Monday afternoon and was threatening 600 more structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Lake County, where the blaze was burning, freeing up state personnel and equipment. Brown said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had issued a grant to assist in firefighting efforts.

More than 230 firefighters were fighting the flames on Monday afternoon, assisted by water-dropping helicopters and bulldozers, but so far had been unable to cut containment lines.

Thick clouds of black smoke billowed above the blaze that has burned through thousands of miles of dry land. Small pieces of dissolved metal and gray ash were all that remained of some structures.

The blaze jumped the single road leading to the mainly residential Spring Valley community in a couple of places, said Dale Carnathan, emergency services manager for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, adding that some local residents had refused to evacuate. Two roads were closed in the vicinity of the flames

The Pawnee is one of four major wildfires burning in California as temperatures rise across the state. No injuries have been reported.

To the east, the so-called Lane fire in Tehama County had blackened 3,000 acres (1,215 hectares) as of Monday afternoon and was threatening a number of homes, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. It was 10 percent contained.

The Shu Fire burning some 50 miles (80 km) east of Sacramento near the El Dorado National Forest, was threatening the community of Happy Valley, fire officials said, prompting evacuations and road closures. That blaze was 20 percent contained as of Monday afternoon.

The Stoll fire, north of Chico, had burned 300 acres (120 hectares) and destroyed multiple homes since breaking out on Saturday, according to CalFire, but was 60 percent contained on Monday.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Gina Cherelus in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney