Californians facing nights in wildfire evacuation shelters

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Northern California Wildfires Prompt Evacuations

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — As firefighters battled a massive Northern California wildfire threatening numerous homes, some of the 13,000 people urged to flee their residences were spending what may be just one of many nights in evacuation shelters.

The blaze grew to more than 101 square miles Tuesday as it chewed through drought-withered brush that has not burned in years in the Lower Lake area about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

More than 3,000 firefighters tried to stand their ground against the blaze that jumped a highway that had served as a containment line and grew by several square miles despite cooler weather and higher humidity. Its rapid growth caught firefighters off guard and shocked residents.

Vicki Estrella, who has lived in the area for 22 years, stayed at a Red Cross shelter at Middletown High School with her husband and their dog.

Intense photos of the blaze:

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Lake County, California 'Rocky Fire' wildfires
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Californians facing nights in wildfire evacuation shelters
A firefighter lights a backfire as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter is silhouetted by his headlamp as he monitors a backfire while battling the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Flames rise from a wildfire near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Officials called for evacuations Monday as numerous homes were threatened by the flames. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
James Logan and his wife Lisa embrace during a community meeting for evacuees as a wildfire burns near Clearlake, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Firefighters made some progress Tuesday afternoon with some help from light rain that fell in the area. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Volunteers who declined to give their names react as a Sheriff informs evacuees that they will need to leave The Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. The Rocky fire continues to burn and has charred more than 65,000 acres and destroyed 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
A firefighter watches a backfire as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter walks by burned out trees during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter moves away from a tall flame as he uses a drip torch to burn dry grass during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Long Beach Fire Department fire captain uses a flare to burn dry grass during a backfire operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A vehicle burned in the Rocky Fire is shown near Lower Lake, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Firefighters made some progress Tuesday afternoon with some help from light rain that fell in the area. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Arnold, of the Long Beach Fire Department, douses flames from a wildfire near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Officials called for evacuations Monday as numerous homes were threatened by the flames. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Andrew Mehr, of the Long Beach Fire Department, looks on as flames from the Rocky fire approach near Clearlake, Calif., Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Officials called for evacuations Monday as numerous homes were threatened by the flames. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSON (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Cal Fire firefighters watch a back burn while fighting the Rocky fire off highway 20 near Clear Lake, California on August 2, 2015. The fire has charred more than 27,000 acres, and is currently only 5% contained. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Brush and trees burn during the Rocky fire off highway 20 near Clear Lake, California on August 2, 2015. The fire has charred more than 27,000 acres, and is currently only 5% contained. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
A Cal Fire firefighter leads a group of inmate firefighters during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Inmate firefighters march along highway 20 as they monitor a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A Cal Fire truck is driven away from flames as the Rocky fire burns near Clear Lake, California on August 2, 2015. The fire has charred more than 27,000 acres, and is currently only 5% contained. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Cal Fire firefighters watch a large plume of smoke as it rises from the Rocky Fire on August 1, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Oceanside Fire Department captain Greg DeAvila monitors a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Inmate firefighters monitor a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In this long exposure, lights from a car streaks by as flames and a huge plume of smoke rise into the air as the Rocky fire burns near Clear Lake, California on August 2, 2015. The fire has charred more than 27,000 acres, and is currently only 5% contained. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Cal Fire firefighters monitor a backfire ahead of the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
The Rocky fire burns near Clear Lake, California on August 2, 2015. The fire has charred more than 27,000 acres, and is currently only 5% contained. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California on August 2, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires on August 2 in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Oceanside Fire Department captain Greg DeAvila shoots a flare into dry brush during a burn operation to head off the Rocky Fire on August 2, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A large plume of smoke rises from the Rocky Fire on August 1, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Over 1,900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that burned over 22,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Goats run away from their pen after firefighters freed them as the Rocky Fire approaches on July 31, 2015 in Lower Lake, California. Over 900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that erupted to over 15,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed 3 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Flames from the Rocky Fire approach a house on July 31, 2015 in Lower Lake, California. Over 900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that erupted to over 15,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed 3 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A firefighter monitors flames from the Rocky Fire as it approaches a home on July 31, 2015 in Lower Lake, California. Over 900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that erupted to over 15,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed 3 homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Firefighters spray a hose at a fire along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flames from the Rocky Fire approach a house on July 31, 2015 in Lower Lake, California. Over 900 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that erupted to over 15,000 acres since it started on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is currently five percent contained and has destroyed three homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Burned trees are seen along a dirt road near where homes were lost as a result of the Rocky fire near Clear lake, California on August 02, 2015. Thousands of firefighters battled raging wildfires Sunday in drought-parched California, where officials evacuated entire neighborhoods and closed miles of highway in the path of the inferno, which has claimed at least one life. Some 6,000 homes were evacuated as 21 large fires burned in the bone-dry western US state, which is in the throes of a historic drought. A total of 121,000 acres (49,000 hectares of land have burned so far, according to figures provided by the state. (Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Burned signs are shown on a road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Firefighters tend to a back fire operation at left under smoke from fires along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
An air tanker drops a load of fire retardant while fighting a large grass fire, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Elverta, Calif. Firefighters from multiple agencies, with at least a dozen fire engines, several aerial tankers and helicopters battled the flames that burned at least 75 acres and threatened dozens of homes in the suburban community just north of Sacramento. No injuries or cause of the fire have been reported. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Firefighters water down a hot spot while fighting a large grass fire, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Elverta,Calif. Firefighters from multiple agencies, with at least a dozen fire engines, several aerial tankers and helicopters battled the flames that burned at least 75 acres and threatened dozens of homes in the suburban community just north of Sacramento. No injuries or cause of the fire have been reported. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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"It's amazing the way that thing spread," Estrella said. "There was smoke 300 feet in the air."

Cooler weather Tuesday is helping crews build a buffer between the flames and some of the 5,500 homes it threatened. Despite the fire's growth, no additional homes were consumed outside the two dozen already destroyed.

More than 13,000 people have been forced from their homes or warned to leave since the blaze ignited Wednesday.

Crews conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect homes in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills. Nearly a week into the fight, fatigue has set in for crews, leading resources from in and out of state to rotate in.

"There were too many (spot fires) for us to pick up," Battalion Chief Carl Schwettmann of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the San Francisco Chronicle. "With these drought-stricken fuels, it's just moving at an extremely high rate of speed."

The fire — the largest blaze in drought-stricken California — roughly tripled in size over the weekend, generating its own winds that fanned the flames and reduced thousands of acres of manzanita shrubs and other brush to barren land in hours.

"There's a lot of old growth-type vegetation and four years of drought to dry it all out," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It was ready to go."

The fire is burning 10 miles from Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake entirely within California and a popular spot for boaters and campers, but no homes around the lake are threatened, fire officials said.

Numerous other wildfires in California, Washington state and Oregon took 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. Crews battled at least 20 other wildfires in the state — some sparked by lightning — though none as big as the Lower Lake blaze. Mandatory evacuations were also in place farther north in a remote rural area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The Lower Lake fire is well short of historic proportions. One of the largest wildfires in California history was a 2013 blaze that took out 400 square miles of Sierra Nevada wilderness.

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Daley reported from Middletown, Calif. Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez, Sudhin Thanawala and Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco and Yara Bishara in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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