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Fires Spread as Thousands Battle Blazes Across California


California firefighter Bo Santiago watches a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, California, Aug. 3, 2015.

More than 9,000 firefighters are battling to contain 21 wildfires in California that have forced thousands to flee their homes and burned large swaths of land.

The largest fire, the Rocky Fire, grew to 263 square kilometers (65,000 acres) early Tuesday after bursting through containment lines and jumping a highway as it swept through Colusa, Lake and Yolo counties, north of San Francisco.

The unpredictable blaze broke out seven days ago, and has burned down 50 structures, including 24 homes, and forced 13,000 people to flee their homes. Nearly 3,100 firefighters, many of them reinforcements from out of state, are deployed to the scene.

Thousands of lightening strikes have sparked several hundred small wildfires in Northern California since last week, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A department spokeswoman said the Rocky fire is burning in a path that has not burned in a long time and the vegetation is extremely dry.

The blaze has consumed shurbs, grass and timber parched by four years of drought.

Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington and Oregon have taken off as the effects of drought and summer heat turned the West Coast combustible. California blazes killed a firefighter last week and injured four others.

Two more National Guard air tankers were being brought in from Colorado to drop retardant on the fires.