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Latest Northern California wildfire destroys homes; residents flee

A fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has destroyed at least two homes after moving across Interstate 80 and into dense wilderness.

The Applegate fire in Placer County started about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and has so far scorched about 380 acres. Hundreds of residents in Applegate, Weimer, Twin Pines and Heather Glen have been forced to evacuate, with at least 80 homes threatened by the fire, officials said. It was just 10% contained overnight.

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The wildfire started as five to seven smaller spot fires along I-80 and, fanned by winds, quickly pushed into tinder-dry wilderness, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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

Photos and video posted on Twitter, YouTube and local media outlets showed that at least two homes have already been destroyed. 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 on Tuesday in Yosemite National Park, the agency relied on federal aircraft to battle the blaze.

"What we're seeing right now is this fire is spotting ahead of itself," Berlant said. "Once firefighters start attacking one area, the fire spots in another direction and firefighters have to race and chase to that area to slow it down."

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 nearly 100% contained, officials said.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna

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