California Fire Grows After Charring Gold Rush Town

FRENCH GULCH, Calif. (AP) -- A northern California wildfire that destroyed 22 homes and two businesses in this historic gold mining town grew to nearly 10,000 acres Tuesday, but evacuated residents were able to return home.

The fire, burning about 140 miles northwest of Sacramento, had moved north of French Gulch and was 25 percent contained. Firefighters did not expect to fully contain the flames until Friday.

Evacuated families returned to town while utility crews sought to restore electricity and telephone service.

Two walls of flame roared through the community of 150 homes on Saturday, destroying one-sixth of its buildings. Firefighters managed to save an 1885-era hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, a school and the post office.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Louis Haynes said the fire continues to burn into a heavily forested area with no homes.

Firefighters have not yet determined a cause for the blaze, which has cost $3.5 million to fight. More than 2,700 firefighters were battling the flames with 223 engines, 41 helicopters and 45 water tankers.

In central Washington state, firefighters continued to battle a fierce fire near Dryden, about 85 miles east of Seattle. More than 325 homes had been evacuated, and authorities Tuesday warned residents of 234 more houses they might have to leave if the flames grow.

Lightning ignited 18 new fires in the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests, but most were small and did not threaten any buildings.

The thunderstorms brought heavy rain that caused three mudslides, temporarily trapping 65 people and their vehicles on a highway near North Cascades National Park. Crews were able to open a single lane to traffic early Tuesday.

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