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Wildfires spread as California declares emergency

Last Updated: Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 15:19

Davenport: Strong winds are spreading multiple wildfires across parched parts of California as officials worry the gusts could ignite more blazes and force more evacuations in areas already under a state of emergency.
The Lockheed Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains has blackened close to 8 square miles of remote wilderness and prompted mandatory evacuations of the mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon, which have about 2,400 residents and several wineries.

Lt Governor John Garamendi declared a state of emergency on Friday for Santa Cruz County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has returned to California after attending the Massachusetts funeral of his mother-in-law, Eunice Shriver, is scheduled to visit the fire zone on Saturday.

The fire sent huge plumes of smoke across Monterey Bay and damaged two small structures. It also was threatening more than 1,000 homes and buildings but no injuries have been reported. The cause is under investigation.

Officials said on Friday that the fire was moving toward more populated areas around Highway 9.

The blaze started on Wednesday about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. A change in winds shifted the fire away from Bonny Doon but closer to Swanton, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. By Friday evening, it was 15 percent contained, he added.

The steep, rugged terrain and dense vegetation have made it difficult to contain the blaze, so firefighters are focused on keeping flames away from homes, said Jim Stunkel, a battalion chief from San Jose.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 15:19

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