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California blaze grows to 23,500 acres as firefighters battle ‘extreme’ behavior

by Luke Money, Los Angeles Times |

A wind-whipped wildfire has charred 23,500 acres west of Coalinga in California’s Fresno County as of Saturday, and firefighters are contending with “extreme” fire behavior as they work to contain the blaze.

The Mineral Fire – which ignited about 3:30 p.m. Monday in the area of South Coalinga Mineral Springs Road and Highway 198 – had doubled in size since Wednesday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire “is currently burning in difficult-to-access areas and in fuels with no fire history,” officials wrote in the update. “Containment efforts will be hampered due to extreme fire behavior, which includes rapid uphill and wind-driven runs.”

Air tankers are being used when weather allows to fight the fire, along with 11 helicopters, 110 engines, 38 bulldozers and 45 water tankers. Fire crews report that the fire is burning in areas of steep terrain that are hard to reach.