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California wildfire destroys houses, thousands more threatened

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[September 22, 2014]  (Reuters) - A wildfire sweeping through parts of California's Sierra Nevada mountains has destroyed 10 houses and 22 outbuildings and is threatening thousands of other structures, fire officials said on Sunday.

So far no residents have been hurt, said fire service spokesman Tom Piranio, but 2,800 people had been evacuated. Firefighters had only recently able to enter burned areas to report on the damage, he added.

Rain and lower temperatures have helped firefighters make some progress against the blaze which began on Sept. 13, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

The blaze, named the King Fire by the Department, has scorched more than 82,000 acres (33,184 hectares) of land in the El Dorado National Forest and Tahoe National Forest - areas northeast of Sacramento popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

About 12,000 homes and 9,000 other structures were still under threat, fire officials said.

By Sunday night, firefighters had contained 17 percent of the blaze, up from 10 percent earlier in the day, said CalFire.

Investigators last week arrested Wayne Allen Huntsman on charges of arson, accusing him of starting the fire.

Huntsman, 37, pleaded not guilty on Friday and was being held in lieu of $10 million bail. The criminal complaint lists previous convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, theft and receiving stolen property.

Organizers canceled two Ironman triathlon events scheduled for Sunday at nearby Lake Tahoe, citing exceedingly poor air quality caused by the fire.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner and Kevin Murphy)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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