Nation & World

Crews race weather in Central California wildfire

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Federal fire officials accelerated their attack Sunday on a smoky wildfire that threatened 500 homes in Central California as they raced to control the fast-moving blaze before hotter, drier weather sets in, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said.

The fire burning in and around the Sequoia National Forest doubled in size overnight and came within a mile of a community about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield where sheriff's deputies walked the streets with bullhorns and knocked on doors as they urged residents to evacuate, authorities said.

"They were out there walking the streets through the night," Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill said. "I just got off the phone with someone who said the sheriffs got to them at 2 this morning."

The Forest Service reported that the Shirley Fire had consumed more than 2.8 square miles of trees, grass and chaparral located on federal, state, local and private lands as of Sunday morning. The blaze, first reported Friday night, was 10 percent contained.

The cause is under investigation.

The 500 homes where people were being strongly urged to leave are located in Wofford Heights, an area sandwiched between the fire and Lake Isabella, a popular recreation spot.

About 560 personnel were working on the ground and from the air to contain the fire on Saturday night, but more were expected to join the fight on Sunday, Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Chapman said.

Authorities planned to keep the augmented crews working through a "swing shift" so they don't lose any time during shift changes to make progress, Chapman said.

"Our current outlook for the forecast is such that we are really ramping up suppression operations over the next couple of days because it's going to be even hotter and dryer at the end of the week," she said.

The fire teams were assessing the burn area to see if any structures were destroyed and planned to report their findings on Sunday night, she said.

The Forest Service said that camping, horseback riding, rafting and other activities in the Sequoia district were so far unaffected by the blaze.

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