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Fast-Moving King Fire Explodes To 70,000 Acres Overnight, Doubling In Size

POLLOCK PINES, El Dorado County (CBS SF) -- The King Fire in El Dorado County has exploded in size overnight, more than doubling in size as flames made a run to the northwest forcing mandatory evacuations for residents in Quintette and Volcanoville.

Meanwhile, authorities Thursday announced a man has been arrested on suspicion of intentionally starting the fire.

The fire had burned more than 70,000 acres by Thursday morning, a growth of 43,000 acres overnight.

A total of 3,695 firefighters were now taking on the blaze that was only 5 percent contained Thursday morning as it continues to threaten 2,003 homes and another 1,505 smaller structures.

Firefighters are also keeping a watchful eye on the changing weather conditions. El Dorado County is expecting a chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible in the afternoon.

"With the winds that we're starting to see and we'll see over the next couple of days as storm system moves in—those gusty winds, these dry conditions—that's the perfect combination for this fire to grow." Daniel Berlant, a Cal Fire spokeman, told KCBS.

MORE: Complete Coverage Of California Wildfires

Most of the threatened homes were in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento. Hundreds of them are under evacuation orders with an emergency shelter located at Camino Seventh-day Adventist Church in Georgetown.

"We're leaving the only place I've ever felt home in my life," said one evacuee Jenny Young. "Praying to God everyone is going to be safe and selfishly I don't want our house to burn either."

Highway 50 is now open, but trans-Sierra travelers are advised to take caution.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday, freeing up funds for the two fires. Brown had also secured federal grants to fight each of them.

In another wildfire in the Northern Californian town of Weed, two churches, a community center and the library also burned to the ground, while an elementary school and the city's last wood-products mill were damaged by flames that had been pushed by 40 mph winds.

On Wednesday, firefighters braced for more wind as they battled the 375-acre fire, and insurance companies worked to find places to live for the people who lost their homes.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation. It was 60 percent contained.

Burned neighborhoods remained off-limits, but people have been finding ways in since the fire started.

The Rev. Bill Hofer, pastor of Weed Berean Church, said power was back on in his home, which was still standing on the edge of the devastation zone, and he was planning to return Wednesday night—despite the evacuation order—to deter vandalism.

"The more people home with the lights on, the better," he said.

At the Roseburg Forest Products veneer mill, workers looked for structural damage to the main manufacturing facility. A maintenance shed was reduced to twisted sheet-metal.

"We were in the middle of its path," said Kellye Wise, vice president of human resources for the company based in Dillard, Oregon. He said employees also lost homes in the blaze.

The temporary closure of the mill came as another blow to a town still suffering from logging cutbacks in the 1990s intended to protect fish and wildlife, Siskiyou County Supervisor Michael Kobseff said.

With 170 workers, the mill is the second-largest employer in Weed, a blue-collar town of 3,000 people in the shadow of Mount Shasta. He said some residents are anxious to rebuild.

"Then there are others still pretty well devastated," he said. "But I think the community is just trying to pull together and get back on track."

Near Yosemite National Park, a 320-acre fire that damaged or destroyed 71 structures, including 37 homes, around Oakhurst was 70 percent contained and all remaining evacuations were canceled.

More than 4,000 wildfires have burned in California this year.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. And its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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