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Fire crews gain ground against Central California wildfire

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    Firefighters across the Pacific Northwest are working to protect property from fast-moving wildfires that destroyed multiple homes in eastern Oregon, cut off power in Washington and forced thousands of evacuations throughout the region.

FRESNO, Calif. >> Firefighters were gaining ground Sunday against a California wildfire that led to the evacuation of thousands of people and destroyed a lodge in Kings Canyon National Park.

Despite relentlessly high temperatures, fire crews increased the blaze’s containment to 7 percent, the U.S. Forest Service said. The wildfire has burned across more than 73 square miles of timber and brush left parched by the state’s extended drought.

At least 2,500 campers, hikers, employees and residents fled the area last week, including staffers and summer campers at The Hume Lake Christian Camp.

Nobody was hurt when the Kings Canyon lodge, which bills itself as a folksy getaway for tourists, was burned to its foundation.

The lightning-sparked blaze has been burning for three weeks. It is one of 15 wildfires burning across California.

Smoke from the huge fire was expected to degrade air quality, especially in valley areas to the northeast, officials said Sunday.

Meanwhile crews fully contained a wildfire on the eastern outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area that scorched more than 4 square miles of dry brush near Livermore.

In San Luis Obispo County, firefighters have reached 70 percent containment of a blaze that charred more than 5 square miles and prompted evacuations near the small town of Santa Margarita.

Authorities asked for the public’s help in identifying the vehicle that they believe sparked the fire because of a mechanical problem or a dragging chain on U.S. 101 on Sunday.

Warm, dry conditions will keep the fire threat elevated across foothills and mountains statewide.

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