The Latest: California Sierra fire forces evacuations

The Latest on the wildfires burning in the U.S. West (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Authorities say a wildfire in Northern California's Sierra foothill grew to more than three square miles Friday, forcing 1,650 people from their homes as the blaze threatens structures.

The fire started Tuesday afternoon, charging through inaccessible terrain and climbing out of a steep canyon along the middle fork of the American River.

Nearly 2,000 fire crews are battling the blaze about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento. The fire is threatening some than 2,600 homes, businesses and other structures. No damage to structures or injuries had been reported as of Friday. The fire was 12 percent contained.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says the Red Cross has set up an evacuation center in Auburn, near Sacramento and 140 miles northeast of San Francisco.

12:10 p.m.

Forecasters say the threat of wildfires will remain high in Southern California and the Southwest this month because of persistent drought and because summer rains may not be as consistent as usual.

The National Interagency Fire Center said Friday that parts of intermountain West also face above-normal chances of significant fires in July because grasses and small trees are dry.

That area includes northern California and parts of Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming.

The center says dry conditions in the Dakotas will increase the chances for big fires there as well.

The center's monthly forecast says the risk of wildfires could remain high across the West in August.

The risk level will likely return to normal in most areas in September, but forecasters say California could remain at risk into the autumn because of drought.