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California wildfires threaten some 500 homes

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) -- Firefighters were racing to control a wildfire that threatened more than 500 homes in central California before hotter, drier weather sets in later in the week.

By later Sunday, the fire had burned through 3.1 square miles of trees and brush in and around the Sequoia National Forest, coming within a mile of a community about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

Authorities have called on residents of the threatened homes to evacuate.

While firefighters stopped the flames from reaching homes in Wofford Heights, officials anticipated that the fire will spread toward the community near Lake Isabella, a popular recreation spot.

"It's moving toward areas that have not been burned," fire spokesman Jay Nichols said.

The Shirley Fire has destroyed at least two structures, Nichols said. It was 10 percent contained.

The blaze broke out Friday night in remote area northwest of the lake and exploded late Saturday as dry winds pushed the flames toward homes, prompting Kern County Sheriff's deputies to knock on doors into the night to urge residents to leave.

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze in steep, rugged terrain. They were aided by retardant-dropping air tankers and helicopters that can fly through the night. They were scooping water from the lake to use against the fire.

More crews were expected to join the fight. 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, Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer 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 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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