Two brush fires out of control in California coastal mountains; thousands evacuated

 Two brush fires out of control in California coastal mountains; thousands evacuated

14 August 2009

published by latimesblogs.latimes.com


Ca, USA — Two large fires in the coastal mountains of California were burning out of control this morning, forcing residents to flee their homes and leaving firefighters struggling in rough terrain.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, officials said two structures have burned in a 2,800-acre brush fire that has forced evacuations in the hillside communities north of Santa Cruz.

That fire, named the Lockheed fire, is being driven by heavy winds, and hand crews have experienced trouble reaching the fire lines. As a result, the fire is being mostly fought by air.

That fire started Wednesday evening 10 miles north of Santa Cruz, and the cause is still under investigation. More than 2,000 people were evacuated.

[Updated at 8:30 a.m.: AccuWeather.com says that the gusty winds will continue at least through the weekend, giving little relief to firefighters.

“The rapid spread of the fire was aided by winds gusting to nearly 20 mph. The fire is burning in a heavily wooded, evergreen forest area,” the forecast said. “The thick brush and rough terrain will make it difficult for ground fire control. Water drops via aircraft may be the best option at this time.”

AccuWeather said the towns most at risk are Swanton, Davenport and Bonny Doon (an earlier version of this post misspelled the last town’s name). The last major fire in that area was in 1948.]

A second fire roaring through Los Padres National Forest about 26 miles east of Santa Maria has grown, charring more than 67,000 acres and forcing some residents to flee.

Authorities issued evacuation orders Thursday that cover about 150 homes and ranches, most in the Cottonwood Canyon area.

About 1,600 firefighters are attacking the blaze, which started Saturday. The cause is unknown. Firefighting efforts have been hampered by inaccessible terrain and volatile winds.

[Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Officials said the Santa Barbara County blaze, named the La Brea fire, has grown to 67,092 acres and is 10% contained. It consumed about 20,000 acres over the last 24 hours.

According to a statement from Los Padres National Forest, “firefighters worked aggressively through the afternoon and night to prevent fire from reaching the Canyon area, conducting burn out operations to reinforce dozer lines along the ridges under challenging conditions. Later [Thursday] afternoon, the fire crossed Horse Creek within the San Rafael Wilderness creating a massive plume of smoke. Another massive plume was created as the fire moved east into Bates Canyon above Cuyama Valley, however, fire lines protecting homes in Cuyama Valley are holding.”]


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