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Crews seek to get the upper hand on 13 blazes burning around California

Wildfires near Burney, Calif., threaten 700 homes as firefighters battle 13 major blazes throughout the state

Towns were evacuated and homes were threatened Tuesday as firefighters battled at least 13 major wildfires across drought-stricken California.

An abundance of thunderstorms caused by monsoonal winds from the southeast  caused many of the fires -- officials estimate at least 26 fires were sparked by lightning -- but the accompanying rains and humidity did offer firefighters a brief reprieve: The extra moisture slowed the growth of fires and allowed firefighters greater access.

"They're going to push to use as much equipment and resources as possible while they have the opportunity," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 1,000 firefighters are on the lines of two fires raging in the Lassen National Forest east of Redding.

The Eiler fire, at more than 31,000 acres, is perhaps the most dangerous, Tolmachoff said. Burning just four miles southeast of the tiny Shasta County town of Burney, the fire -- which began July 31 -- now threatens more than 700 homes. Firefighters have the blaze about 35% contained, but Tolmachoff said they do not expect to have the fire controlled until Aug. 20 at the earliest.

About eight miles east, the Bald fire has spread to nearly 40,000 acres, or about 62 square miles. It's about 30% contained, and fire officials do not expect it to be controlled until Aug. 17, Tolmachoff said.

Meanwhile, the 4,689-acre El Portal fire on the western edge of Yosemite National Forest is now 100% contained. That frees up much-needed personnel to battle larger fires, Tolmachoff said.

Assuming weather conditions remain the same, authorities expect that it will take at least until the end of August to fully contain the state's current wildfires.

"But we're expecting warmer temperatures at the end of this week," Tolmachoff said. "We'll have to see what effect that has."

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