LOS ANGELES - A stubborn Northern California wildfire was 68 percent contained Friday and firefighters were making significant progress, state fire officials said.
The Ponderosa fire has consumed more than 28,000 acres in Tehama and Shasta counties since it was sparked by lightning Saturday. It has destroyed 64 homes, mostly around the small community of Manton.
"They're making progress every hour and we're fairly confident that we've got the forward movement stopped," said Mary Ann Aldrich, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Aldrich said full containment was expected by Monday.
"We've utilized hand crews, bulldozers and aircraft and engine crews. Being able to have the combination of those resources has really contributed to the success," she said.
Fire officials said six people have been injured in the fire, including a firefighter who fell from a rock outcropping. Early in the week, the Ponderosa had threatened more than 2,000 homes as it raced up canyons, crossing from Tehama County into Shasta County and forcing evacuations. Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the area, freeing up state resources to fight the Ponderosa and other fires.
But by Thursday, the tide had turned and Cal Fire officials began to lift evacuation orders, allowing residents to re-enter most areas on the perimeter of the Ponderosa.
Sacramento resident Pauline Dow was relieved to find her family cabin, encircled by scorched earth and blackened trees, safe in its green oasis adjacent to the aptly named Battle Creek. She watched as a helicopter dropped loads of water on one of the fire's last live areas just in front of her property.
She said she was grateful for the state prison fire camp workers - more than 550 inmates - who did most of the labor cutting fire lines, working 24-hour shifts with shovels and axes in terrain too rough for bulldozers and fire hoses to reach.
"Thank you, I love you!" she shouted.