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Wildfire near Lake Tahoe destroys six homes, threatens 1,000 more

A wildfire burning through dense forest in Northern California has destroyed six homes and threatens 1,000 others, officials said.

The Applegate fire in Placer County has burned 420 acres and was 30% contained overnight. The blaze started Wednesday afternoon as seven small fires along Interstate 80 that quickly combined into a fast-moving wildfire that raced through tinder-dry trees and brush toward secluded forest homes.

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More than 1,400 firefighters are trying to extinguish the blaze, which has forced evacuations in Applegate, Weimar, Twin Pines and Heather Glen.  Crews made huge gains Thursday in containing the fire while stopping its spread for most of the afternoon.

Crews hope to increase containment on Friday, officials said.

On Wednesday, state officials announced Gov. Jerry Brown secured a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant Wednesday to help cover the cost of fighting the blaze and rebuilding damaged communities.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant told reporters that the fire's point of origin along the highway led officials to believe that it was human-caused, though it's unclear if it was intentional.

"When you have a fire alongside the roadway, human activity of some type is typically the cause," Berlant told KCRA-TV.

With Cal Fire's fleet of S-2t air tankers grounded because of a crash Tuesday in Yosemite National Park, the agency relied on federal aircraft to battle the blaze.

"Steep and difficult terrain along with limited ground access has been a challenge to firefighters," Cal Fire wrote in an update on the fire.

The blaze is about 40 miles away from Lake Tahoe.

The fire is one of two out-of-control blazes that Cal Fire has had to battle this week. The second, with the U.S. Forest Service as the lead agency, is on the edge of Yosemite National Park.

The rest of the state's fires are either extinguished or are contained, including the 97,000-acre King fire. 

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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