The blaze, which started Saturday near San Francisco, has exploded in size as dry weather sweeps western states

A vast wildfire in rural northern California has exploded in size and forced evacuations in hot, dry weather that is sweeping through several western states where blazes are threatening thousands of homes.

The fast-moving fire that started over the weekend north-west of Sacramento grew dramatically to about 70 sq miles (180 sq km) by Monday, largely burning out of control in rugged terrain, marked by a few cattle and horse ranches, and sending smoke and ash as far south as San Francisco.

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Read More Huge, fast-moving wildfire forces California evacuations

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