Wildfires Force Thousands of Evacuations in California, Wreak Havoc Across West

Blaze that ignited over the weekend the latest in brutal Western fire season that has cost $160 million.

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The American West continues to burn, as the newest of two wildfires in Northern California that have engulfed nearly 57,000 acres forced the evacuation of thousands of residents Sunday night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

[Photos: Wildfires Devastate West]

Lightning sparked dry forest land about 170 miles north of Sacramento Saturday morning, igniting the latest of more than a dozen destructive wildfires across the rain-starved West. The Ponderosa fire in Northern California now threatens at least 3,000 homes while a fire in nearby Mendocino County, burning since July 29, grew to threaten 900 homes. More than 1,000 firefighters are working to douse the Ponderosa fire, which was just 5 percent contained as of Sunday night.

Blazes have destroyed swaths of Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and California so far this year.

In Colorado, dry conditions and high winds fueled the most destructive wildfire in the state's history this summer, which burnt more than 180 homes. The blaze approached the state's fourth-largest city, Fort Collins, during its 43,000-acre torching. In New Mexico, a wildfire in the central part of the state burned more than 40,000 acres. Both blazes are at least 50 percent contained, according to the Associated Press.

This year's wildfire season is among the worst, according to federal data. Fires burn on average of 5 million acres a year, but this year's fires have destroyed more than 6.4 million acres already. Currently there are 35 large, uncontained fires burning in the United States, including 13 in California alone, according a federal fire report. Altogether, the cost of fighting these fires is estimated at $160 million so far this year.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.