August 16, 2009 in Nation/World

Fire evacuations persist in parched California

Jared Grigsby Associated Press
 
Russel Daniels photo

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a press conference on the Lockheed fire at the incident command post in Watsonville, Calif., on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

DAVENPORT, Calif. – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged residents to heed mandatory evacuation orders Saturday as 6,800 firefighters battled to control nearly a dozen blazes across the parched state.

Schwarzenegger met with firefighters at the Lockheed fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Lockheed fire has blackened close to 8 square miles of wilderness since Wednesday and prompted mandatory evacuations of the mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon, which have about 2,400 residents and several wineries.

“These fires will be different than most of the fires because of the terrain,” Schwarzenegger said. “It’s very hard to get equipment in there and the resources in there. That’s why you see a lot of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft being used.”

The fire spread slightly overnight but crews gained some ground when the winds died down, containing nearly 30 percent of the fire, said CalFire spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson.

But an offshore wind was expected to blow into the area later Saturday, bringing hotter temperatures, dropping the humidity and drying out the trees and brush.

Schwarzenegger said the Lockheed fire was one of 11 burning in the state. Other blazes have forced evacuations and knocked out power, and smoke and ash from the growing wildfire in Santa Barbara County whirled into the Los Angeles area, prompting an unusual weather forecast of “scattered smoke.”

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