California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in response to a raging wildfire that has threatened thousands of homes in what is being called the state's worst-ever fire season.
Brown has put all state resources at the disposal of his Office of Emergency Services in response to the so-called King fire, the largest of 11 major wildfires raging across the drought-ridden state, and another powerful blaze farther north, he said.
Fire crews in California's rugged Sierra Nevada battled to gain the upper hand on Wednesday against a blaze that threatened at least 3,500 structures, including 2,000 homes, and has displaced hundreds of residents as flames roared for a fifth day through dry timber and brush west of Lake Tahoe.
Most of the threatened homes were in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento.
The King Fire has scorched nearly 44 square miles of state land and the El Dorado National Forest since it erupted Saturday, fire officials said. California's fire season, which typically runs from May to October, is on track to be the most destructive on record, state fire managers say.
A force of 3,300 firefighters had managed to carve containment lines around 5 percent of the blaze's perimeter, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's website.
Numerous campgrounds were closed in the forest, a popular destination for river rafting and other activities east of Sacramento.
The fire, stoked by strong, erratic winds, dry vegetation and low humidity, was burning largely unchecked in steep canyon terrain along the south fork of the American River and Silver Creek, north of the community of Pollock Pines.
Mounting danger from the fire came after crews halted the advance of another fire hundreds of miles to the north in the Cascade range on Tuesday, after 150 buildings were lost in the town of Weed near Mount Shasta and the Oregon border.
Police volunteer Mark Merrill said two churches and a sawmill were among buildings damaged or destroyed in the historic logging town of 3,000 people.
More than 30 homes and two dozen other structures were consumed in a third fire in and around Sierra foothill communities south of Yosemite National Park.