- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 16, 2009

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.

Mr. Schwarzenegger met with firefighters at the Lockheed Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a day after the governor returned to the state from attending the funeral of his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

The Lockheed Fire has blackened close to 8 square miles of remote 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,” Mr. 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 winged 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 state fire spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson.

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

“If we get those winds, those high temperatures and low humidity, it could definitely cause a much more rapid fire and a lot more fire spread,” Ms. Hutchinson said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said the Lockheed Fire was one of 11 burning in the state. Other blazes have forced evacuations and knocked out power, and smoke from a blaze in Yuba County north of Sacramento could be seen as far away as Reno.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi declared a state of emergency Friday for Santa Cruz County.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said 25 firefighters had been injured in various blazes, but the extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known.

“We pray that they heal as quickly as possible,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said.

The Lockheed Fire started Wednesday about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. A change in winds shifted the fire away from Bonny Doon but closer to Swanton, said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

No homes had been destroyed, and no injuries were reported. The blaze damaged two small structures and was threatening more than 1,000 homes and buildings. The cause is under investigation.

Hannah Good, a veterinarian who lives in Bonny Doon with her partner and two children, said workers helped to evacuate her birds, cats, donkey, pony and dog.

“It was quite a scramble getting the animals and our family out of there,” Ms. Good said. “Once I smelled the smoke, I knew we had problems.”

Meanwhile, more than 230 homes and ranches in canyons and ridges near a wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest remained under evacuation orders. The week-old fire in northern Santa Barbara County had grown to about 118 square miles, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Vicki Collins. An old, unoccupied fire station was burned.

Ms. Collins said the fire was 25 percent contained Saturday morning. Nearly 2,000 firefighters are fighting the blaze, which started Aug. 8.

In Yuba County north of Sacramento, a wildfire covering more than 1.5 square miles destroyed two homes Friday, forced the evacuation of about 120 residences and knocked out power in the Sierra foothills town of Dobbins, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Joann Cartoscelli.

More than 400 firefighters had contained about 35 percent of the fire and were expected to decide Saturday afternoon whether some residents could return to their homes, Ms. Cartoscelli said.

Crews were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to the Colgate Powerhouse, the oldest powerhouse in the state. It provides electricity to the Dobbins area.

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