More help for crews battling California wildfires

More fire crews were deployed across California today to gain control of a series of growing wildfires that have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

More fire crews were deployed across California today to gain control of a series of growing wildfires that have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Lockheed fire has prompted officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders for about 2,400 people in the communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz County.

The blaze, which started on Wednesday night, destroyed 16.6 sq kms of wilderness and was only about 5% contained by this morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire, about 16kms north of the coastal city of Santa Cruz, has damaged only two small structures but was threatening more than 1,000 others. There have been no reports of injuries related to the fire, whose cause is under investigation.

The Lockheed fire was about five kms from the site of last June’s Martin fire, which burned 520 acres and destroyed 11 buildings in Bonny Doon, home to about 2,000 people and several wineries.

The area’s rugged terrain and limited access were hampering the 700 firefighters currently at the scene. About 300 more firefighters, six helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft were expected today, officials said.

Higher humidity from overnight fog and light winds were also welcome news to ground crews trying to prevent the fire from spreading.

“It was burning within the interior of where the fire is,” CalFire spokesman Mike Mohler said. “The fire didn’t move forward ... it’s absolutely great news.”

Smoke plumes extended over 80 kms from Santa Cruz to Monterey, but winds were blowing the smoke out toward the Pacific Ocean, said Richard Stedman, director of the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District. Officials were monitoring air quality, but do not believe it has reached unhealthy levels.

Further down the coast, more than 1,800 firefighters were battling a wildfire around the Los Padres National Forest that had grown to nearly 272 sq kms by this morning, said US Forest Service spokeswoman Valerie Baca.

More than 230 homes and ranches in canyons and ridges near the La Brea fire are under evacuation orders as a week-old wildfire continues to grow in northern Santa Barbara County.

Hot, dry conditions were expected today.

In Alameda County, a grass fire near the Altamont Pass has grown to about 41 sq kms in a mostly remote area. The Corral fire was about 10% contained this morning.

In far northern California, two separate wildfires forced the evacuation of more than 30 homes.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox