Fires blaze in dry northern California

Fires blaze in dry northern California

13June 2008

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SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday declared a state of emergency in a coastal county south of San Francisco as wildfires threatened thousands of homes in the state’s rain-starved north.

Schwarzengger made the announcement less than one day after making a similar declaration for another jurisdiction as brush and forest fires burned toward hundreds of homes there.

“I’m declaring a state of emergency for Santa Cruz County today — the state is committed to doing whatever it takes to assist the locals and provide the resources needed to battle the Martin Fire,” he said in a statement.

The Santa Cruz fire has already ravaged 280 hectares (700 acres), according to Schwarnzenegger, and an unspecified number of buildings.

In Butte County, two brush and forest fires have scorched some 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) and destroyed 21 homes and 26 other buildings.

Firefighters had extinguished one of the fires but a second was only 10 percent under control early Thursday and still threatens about 1,200 homes, according to California’s Office of Emergency Services.

Another fire was burning in Monterey county just south of Santa Cruz.

“We are mobilizing and coordinating all of the resources necessary to fight these fires,” Schwarzenegger said late Wednesday.

On June 4 Schwarzenegger declared that the state was in a serious drought, raising the danger of fire outbreaks. The declaration allows officials to mandate water cutbacks and rationing.

“For the areas in Northern California that supply most of our water, this March, April and May have been the driest ever in our recorded history,” Schwarzenegger said.

Over January 1 to June 30, 2007 Los Angeles, in the southern part of the state, experienced its driest rainy season in 130 years, with one-fifth of normal rainfall.

One consequence was a rise in devastating fires in the second half of the year.

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