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Trace Robie, a housewife who lives on Old West Ranch, said the fire grew very quickly and spread through the dry brush, old oaks and pines on the steep hillside.

She grabbed a handful of clothes, her dogs, her cat, a dish to give her pets water and her purse. “I always said I’d grab my photo albums but there was no time. I didn’t even think about it,” she said.

A Red Cross shelter for displaced residents was set up at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi. By late Tuesday, only 11 people had checked in, said shelter manager Leonard Arends.

Mr. Arends, who lives in Tehachapi, described the Old West Ranch area as a mix of mobile homes and large new stucco homes surrounded by heavy pine and oak brush. He said the residents are a close-knit group of people, many of them retirees.

In northern Kern County, a wildfire in Sequoia National Forest burned more than 11,000 acres, or 17 square miles. It earlier destroyed six homes and forced the evacuation of a camp for juvenile offenders near Kernville. It was five percent contained.

The cause of the blaze, which began Monday, is under investigation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for Kern County on Tuesday, freeing up state resources to battle the fires.

In far northeastern California, crews have 80 percent containment of lightning fires that have burned 250 acres of timber in Lassen County.