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Central California wildfires force 1,000 residents from homes

On Sunday, a wildfire near Bass Lake forced 400 homes to be evacuated. The Bass Lake fire was one of at least three major fires forcing evacuations in California.

Two raging wildfires in California forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes, including one near a lakeside resort town that burned nearly two dozen structures.

The blaze, sparked Sunday afternoon near Bass Lake in Central California, prompted authorities to evacuate about 1,000 residents out of about 400 homes, Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said flames damaged or destroyed 21 structures. The Fresno Bee reports one neighborhood was hit especially hard, with several homes turned to ash and smoldering embers.

"This is gut-wrenching," CalFire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson told the newspaper. "It makes you sick."

The fire started off a road outside of Oakhurst, a foothill community south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park, and made a run to Bass Lake. Stoked by winds, it quickly charred at least 320 acres, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The fire is 20 percent contained.

The lakeside area is a popular destination throughout the year. There were no reports of the blaze affecting the park.

The destructive fire led Gov. Jerry Brown to secure a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 percent of the cost of fighting the fire, state officials said.

Further north, a wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced the evacuation of 133 homes. El Dorado County Sheriff's officials said residents of another 406 homes were being told to prepare to flee.

Berlant said the blaze started in a remote area Saturday, but exploded on Sunday when it reached a canyon full of thick, dry brush. It has blackened 4.7 square miles, and was 10 percent contained.

Meanwhile in Southern California, evacuation orders for 200 homes in Orange County's Silverado Canyon were lifted late Sunday as firefighters contained 50 percent of a wildfire.

The residents were evacuated after the fire broke out Friday. The U.S. Forest Service downgraded the fire's size from 2 ½ square miles to 1 ½ square miles due to better mapping of the blaze.

Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries, many of them from heat exhaustion as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures.

A heat wave was expected to last through Tuesday in Southern California, and a smoke advisory was in effect for parts of Riverside and Orange counties.

In its current fire season outlook, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, reports that above normal fire potential will continue across most of the West Coast states through September.

Currently, there are nine large fires – five in California, three in Oregon, and one in Montana, the fire center reports. For the year so far, there have 39,323 fires covering 2,824,933 acres.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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