Shirley Fire in California's Sequoia National Forest spreads to 3.1 square miles, threatens 500 homes, as gusting winds fan flames; US Forest Service official says fire suppression work is being ramped up on forecasts of hotter, drier weather

BAKERSFIELD, California , June 16, 2014 () – Fire officials accelerated their attack Sunday on a smoky wildfire that threatened 500 homes in central California as they raced to control the fast-moving blaze before hotter, drier weather sets in, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said.

The fire burning in and around the Sequoia National Forest doubled in size overnight and came within a mile of a community about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield where sheriff's deputies walked the streets with bullhorns and knocked on doors as they urged residents to evacuate, authorities said.

"They were out there walking the streets through the night," Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill said Sunday. "I just got off the phone with someone who said the sheriffs got to them at 2 this morning."

The Forest Service reported that the Shirley Fire had consumed more than 3.1 square miles of trees, grass and chaparral and destroyed at least two structures as of Sunday.

The blaze, first reported Friday night, was only 10 percent contained. It was fanned Sunday by 17- to 20-mph wind gusts at the mountain ridges, fire spokesman Jay Nichols said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The 500 homes where people were told to leave are located in Wofford Heights, an area sandwiched between the fire and Lake Isabella, a popular recreation destination.

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze in steep, rugged terrain. They were aided by retardant-dropping air tankers and water-dropping helicopters that can fly throughout the night.

Authorities planned to keep augmented crews working through a "swing shift" so they don't lose any time during shift changes to make progress, Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Chapman said.

"Our current outlook for the forecast is such that we are really ramping up suppression operations over the next couple of days because it's going to be even hotter and dryer at the end of the week," she said.

The Forest Service said camping, horseback riding, rafting and other activities in the Sequoia district were so far unaffected by the blaze.

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