A wind-driven wildfire destroyed 40 homes and forced the evacuation of about 150 people in two small Northern California homes at the base of Sierra Nevada Saturday, officials said.

The fire started at the border of two California counties Friday afternoons and blew up when 50-75 mph winds whipped through the towns of Paradise and Swall Meadows for about three hours, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Liz Brown said.

An incoming storm brought shifting winds, which hampered the effort to put out the blaze.

We had to take defensive positions to protect as many structures as we could while protecting ourselves," Brown said. "We did what we could."

She said Swall Meadows was hit hard by the blaze -- 39 homes were destroyed there while one burned in the neighboring Town of Paradise.

Once the rain started, firefighters were able to corral the blaze. Brown said the rain was not enough to put out the fire because of the state's historic drought that has created extremely dry timber brush that fueled the flames.

The Associated Press contributed to this report