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Thousands flee Hume Lake area as fire jumps river in Sierra National Forest

Thousands flee Hume Lake area as fire jumps river in Sierra National Forest
A tanker plane drops fire retardant along the Highway 180 area while battling the Rough fire. (U.S. Forest Service)

A wildfire burning in the Central Valley has jumped a river and highway and forced thousands of people near Hume Lake to flee, authorities said Wednesday.

Encouraged by days of warm weather and low humidity, the Rough fire has pushed south across thousands of acres this week as crews try to battle the flames up and down steep hillsides and over isolated ridge tops near Kings Canyon.

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The area is extremely difficult to navigate on foot, and firefighters have had to pick and choose their locations — some areas of the fire cannot be attacked directly because there are no escape routes, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The fire has burned 30,901 acres Wednesday morning and was 3% contained. It has grown by 7,000 acres since Tuesday, the Forest Service said.

An evacuation order was issued Tuesday afternoon that affected 2,500 people, the forest service said. The closure includes parts of Cedar Grove and nearby Highway 180. Everyone was out of the area in less than three hours, authorities said.

The fire, caused by lightning, is one of several wildfires sparked by the weather that are burning across the state. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is chewing through drought-parched timber, 6-foot-tall chaparral and waist-high grass.

In San Luis Obispo County, meanwhile, the Cuesta fire continued to threaten homes in Santa Margarita after winds pushed embers over containment lines and sparked additional blazes. The fire has covered about 2,500 acres and is 15% contained, the Forest Service said Wednesday. Crews expect the fire to push south and east but will try to keep its northern face, closer to homes, in control.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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