RED BLUFF, CALIF., AUG. 13 -- One raging forest fire threatened about 1,600 homes today in northern California and three major blazes remained out of control in Yosemite National Park.
Fourteen major fires and several smaller ones burned across California. The biggest fire, the Campbell complex in Tehama County, had charred about 114,000 acres, officials said.
But firefighters' top priority was the smaller 17,500-acre Finley Lake fire east of Red Bluff, which threatened 400 homes in the town of Manton, 200 in Mineral and an additional 1,000 in the general area, officials said.
"Manton is our main concern this afternoon. There's up to 400 homes and 1,000 people in that area," said Paul Bertagna, California Department of Forestry spokesman.
Loren Newman, 73, of Manton, said he hadn't planned to leave his home. But as firefighters cut a 30-foot wide firebreak across his property he was reconsidering. "I usually don't get too excited about fires, but this one has me hemmed in," he said. "There's fire to the west, to the south and to the east."
Elsewhere in the West, smaller fires burned in Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Utah.
Farther south in the Sierra Nevada range, three major fires still raged today in Yosemite National Park, where an estimated 17,000 acres had been charred.
Yosemite has been off-limits to tourists since Friday.
Flames in the park were within two miles of Merced Grove, a stand of giant sequoia trees up to 2,000 years old, and also within two miles of the Badger Pass ski area, the oldest ski resort in California. The sequoias were treated with fire retardant, but their thick bark usually protects them from fire, allowing them to reach their advanced ages.
Flames were about 10 miles from landmarks like El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
Since Aug. 3, more than 200,000 acres of California forest has burned, mostly as the result of 31,108 lightning strikes, forestry officials said. A total of 127 structures have been lost so far, including 42 from the Finley fire, officials said.
About 1,200 soldiers from the Army's 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash., shipped out today to help fight fires in Oregon, Maj. John Lundberg said. They were to help dig fire lines and relieve fatigued crews battling two big blazes near Burns, Ore.
Firefighting in northern California was hampered by an inversion layer of cool air that held down hot and smoky air, cutting visibility.
Airplanes that bomb the fires with a mixture of fire retardant and fertilizer to encourage new growth were unable to fly. Fire officials had to bring in helicopters with infrared sensors to identify "hot spots" and map them for ground crews.