California wildfire forces evacuation of more than 500 people

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Wildfires Burning in Northern California

A rapidly spreading brushfire burning in parched timberland north of San Francisco forced the evacuation of more than 500 people less than a day after it broke out, fire officials said on Thursday.

The blaze, named the Rocky Fire, is one of a string of wildfires threatening homes and scorching parched wilderness in the U.S. West, where several regions have endured sustained drought.

The Rocky Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Lake County, 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. By Thursday morning it had spread to 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

The agency said the fire expanded rapidly through heavy brush and timberland. Rugged terrain made access difficult for firefighters.

"Everything is very dry and this fire has moved extremely fast," said Suzie Blankenship, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.

See photos from recent western wildfires:

18 PHOTOS
Western wildfires July 2015
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California wildfire forces evacuation of more than 500 people
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildefire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. The fast-moving wildfire torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. The National Weather Service warned that wind gusts combined with low humidity in the park and the rest of northwestern Montana had created extreme conditions for wildfires Wednesday afternoon. (Erin Conwell via AP)
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildefire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. The fast-moving wildfire torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. The National Weather Service warned that wind gusts combined with low humidity in the park and the rest of northwestern Montana had created extreme conditions for wildfires Wednesday afternoon. (Erin Conwell via AP)
In this photo taken, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. State Rep. Jenny Eck, who was hosting a delegation from Australia on a tour of the park, took this photo of the fast-moving wildfire. The flames torched a car and a historic cabin and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Jenny Eck via AP)
A tree flares up along the southwestern edge of the Blue Creek fire in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla, Wash., on Monday, July 20, 2015. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, including a major east-west artery, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP).
A firefighting helicopter leaves to dip water from Bennington Lake east of Walla Walla, Wash., Tuesday afternoon, July 21, 2015. Walla Walla County Commissioners have declared a state of emergency due to a wildfire that's destroyed one home and was threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP)
A firefighting helicopter arrives to dip water from Bennington Lake east of Walla Walla, Wash., Tuesday afternoon, July 21, 2015. Walla Walla County Commissioners have declared a state of emergency due to a wildfire that's destroyed one home and was threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP)
Members of the Grayback Forestry firefighting unit become part of the tent city at Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Wash.,  Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Hundreds of fire fighters are now part of the Blue Creek Fire operation in the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP)
In this photo taken, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. State Rep. Jenny Eck, who was hosting a delegation from Australia on a tour of the park, took this photo of the fast-moving wildfire. The flames torched a car and a historic cabin and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Jenny Eck via AP)
In this photo taken, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. State Rep. Jenny Eck, who was hosting a delegation from Australia on a tour of the park, took this photo of the fast-moving wildfire. The flames torched a car and a historic cabin and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Jenny Eck via AP)

A helicopter flies by as a flame flares up along the western edge of the Blue Creek fire in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla, Wash., on Monday, July 20, 2015. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, including a major east-west artery, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP).

A firefighting helicopter, one of eight, dips water from Bennington Lake east of Walla Walla, Wash., Tuesday afternoon, July 21, 2015. Walla Walla County Commissioners have declared a state of emergency due to a wildfire that's destroyed one home and was threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP)
In this photo taken, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. State Rep. Jenny Eck, who was hosting a delegation from Australia on a tour of the park, took this photo of the fast-moving wildfire. The flames torched a car and a historic cabin and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Jenny Eck via AP)
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildefire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. The fast-moving wildfire torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. The National Weather Service warned that wind gusts combined with low humidity in the park and the rest of northwestern Montana had created extreme conditions for wildfires Wednesday afternoon. (Erin Conwell via AP)

The Blue Creek fire in the Blue Mountains glows in this view south of Walla Walla, Wash., Monday, July 20, 2015. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, including a major east-west artery, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP) 

A helicopter dips down into a valley to dip for water during the Blue Creek fire in the Blue Mountainsnear inWalla Walla, Wash., on Monday, July 20, 2015. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, including a major east-west artery, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP).

A tree flares up along the western edge of the Blue Creek fire in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla, Wash., on Monday, July 20, 2015. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, including a major east-west artery, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP)
This Monday, July 20, 2015 photo provided by the Washington State Patrol, a brush fire burns in central Washington near the town of George. Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, closing freeways, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others. (Darren Wright/Washington State Patrol via AP)
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The blaze, which is zero percent contained, has destroyed several outbuildings and mandatory evacuation orders were issued to about 500 people within the first 12 hours of the fire, Cal Fire said. Since then, at least a dozen people have been forced to evacuate but exact figures are still being determined, Blankenship said.

Smoke from the fire has been seen up to 80 miles (130 km) to the south in Napa, one of the state's famed wine-making regions, where another blaze burning for a week forced the evacuation of 200 people on Wednesday.

The 7,500-acre (3035 hectares) Wragg Fire, burning near Lake Berryessa, the largest lake in Napa County, was 80 percent contained, fire officials said.

North of Sacramento, the 2,300-acre (930 hectares) Lowell Fire threatened 1,550 structures, mostly residential, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

One small structure has been destroyed and six people hurt, including one firefighter with serious injuries, Cal Fire said.

About 10 blazes were active in California, which is in its fourth year of record drought, according to fire officials.

To the north, in Washington state, a 6,000 acre (2,400 hectare) blaze that erupted on Monday was burning 10 miles east of Walla Walla, a city of about 32,000 people, according to the U.S. Forest Service's InciWeb online fire information center.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dominic Evans and Bill Trott)

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