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State of emergency declared as two California coastal fires rage out of control [Updated]

California's acting governor today declared a state of emergency in Santa Cruz County, site of one of two large coastal fires burning out of control and forcing residents to flee their homes.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi issued the order because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was out of state attending the funeral of his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The governor is expected to tour the fire zone in Santa Cruz County on Saturday.

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.

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. The last major fire in that area was in 1948.

[Updated at 6:35 p.m.: Fire officials said this afternoon that the fire was moving closer to Bonny Doon and that more evacuations were possible as winds picked up. The blaze was 5% contained and was generating huge plumes of smoke over Monterey Bay.

Smaller fires were also being battled elsewhere in Northern California this afternoon including near the Central Valley town of Tracy and in Yuba County near Lake Francis.]

A second large fire roaring through Los Padres National Forest about 26 miles east of Santa Maria has grown, 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.

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."

The state of emergency is considered a first step in Santa Cruz County getting federal aid.

[Updated 9:26 p.m.: The Lockheed fire near Santa Cruz has been 15% contained, but still threatens homes, according to authorities.]

-- Steve Chawkins and Shelby Grad

Comments () | Archives (43)

Just as there are some of us long-time Californians who have not succeeded in reforming the majority of California; disaster cheerleading seems in poor form, by any neighbor.

I wish the families who are directly effected (of all politics) safety, and comfort.

Comments are "moderated", read approved.
Is it in the land of the freedom of speech?

Poor firefighters - for some overtime pay they risk their lives and health to undo what the environmental wackos caused in the first place.

Isn't Kalifornia totally run by the Kremlin?

9th Circuit Court/Local Kalifornia Governments: "Yer peppers arz not in order" . . . "Yer canut drill, log, or farm in zis most viewtiful stet of Kalifornia, vee must all be socially veesponsible and pweeserve our resources for zour gwandchildwen . . . no, no farming fo you here, go somver else."

Meanwhile, what was once beautiful forests: productive, young, and thriving; is now old, beetle infested, dying, overstocked, and now charred to mineral soil in stand replacing fires.

The only thing Kalifornians are leaving their grandchildren is an ecological nightmare. Young, thriving, actively growing trees sequester far more carbon than old decadent forests. Instead of trees utilizing their resources to produce exponential growth, regularly transpiring, consuming carbon dioxide and billowing oxygen - growing great guns like young productive trees, old trees on the other hand commit all their resources to mere maintenance of their stagnating heavy limbs that are not actively putting on massive amounts of new growth exponentially. Old trees devote their entire energies into maintaining its massive size, barely transpiring, barely emitting exponential amounts of carbon dioxide, and barely sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Their focus is merely staying alive not active growth like a young tree does.

Preserving old trees because they're neat or 'rare' is fine in places set aside for this (Wilderness areas, national parks, etc.), but to stop cutting of even trees that 'have just some' characteristics of an older tree (ie. is over 80 years old - which might be old in human years, but tree years - not so old) is ignorant, childish nostalgia, detrimental to the atmosphere and the planet, and detrimental to the human race.

I am from out of state but I have to wonder how bad this fire season will be for California. I think most of the state is in a drought. I have to wonder how bankrupt California will pay for all the fire fighting costs when this fire season is all said and done. I have a feeling they won't be able to and there will be a lot of neighborhoods that will be left unprotected and "allowed" to burn. Just my opinion.

It is the normal and natural state for the coastal forests and brush to accumlate and burn off in California. It has been happening forever. It will continue to happen. It is NOT natural for people to live in such an environment without clearing the underbrush and making secure zones without fuel between their home and the woods. Same thing goes for prairie fires in the midwest... but they have enough sense in the midwest to clear the woods. Selfish, greedy, wealthy Californians don't because of some spotted spider or other crap... but now whine about it. Get over it. I certainly hope the people of California do not expect any assistance from the people in the rest of the nation after they spit on our troops, harrassed our military recruiters, and had several of their representatives in DC callus "nazis", "racists", "ignorant" and the like. Good luck to you, Californians, but don't expect any of us to shed a tear over your property loss or the costs of fighting the fires. Most of us are begging the national insurers to "rate you up" for your artificially expensive homes and environmental stupidity so we don't have to pay to help you out.

It is scary to read the rants of people so full of hate, lies and partisan bickering. How are they going to cope with the gradual decline of petroleum that runs their SUVs and provides the food that they expect to be cheap and abundant forever? Scapegoating is always a popular response to crisis, it worked so well in Germany in the 1930s, at least for a while.

I'm glad not to support either political party, they're just good cop and bad cop.

Burn Burn Burn!!! Take all the radical tax spending artists with you.

It is time that the traditional practice of controlled burning of underbrush be taken seriously and any opposition to this by the environmentalists should be met with legal action, if reason fails.

The yearly cost to deal with these catastrophic fires is now becoming prohibitive and the environmental movement is quite silent when it comes to the desastrous effects of their philosophy of no controlled burning.

These fires do exactly what these environmentalists fear the most. It destroys entire ecosystems, including endangered species and their habitat, not to say the obvious of the costly damage done to property and lives and the equal cost of rebuilding and replanting.

It is time these environmentalists admit when they have pushed a policy that has repeatedly failed and be humble for once in their self centered lives.

We could probably afford the firefighters we need if our state government wasnt too busy paying their friends 40 million taxpayer dollars.

Maybe Global Warming is caused by California enviro-wackerheads, After all the trees absorb the co2! Thus allowing the wild fires to continue gives the Great State of California a carbon footprint on a biblical scale.

the best post Kalifornia! Tiss so true. Its based on how they feel not what they know or what they think. (They are the ones that live by the net and the computer, not living or seeing what is out in the woods first hand. If a person does not live or work in the woods, they will never really understand how to protect it.

The liberals managed to turn California into one of the worse states in the Union, in less than 20 years.

It's time we shut the enviro-nazis down, in California. They've done enough damage, and they pull the democrats strings all the time. More dead brush clean-ups, and controlled burns, to remove the fuel. Then lets get them away from the water situation, so we can get back to work, feeding the world! The Communist party has moved in on the environmental nut jobs, where they can shame us into allowing them to control us, over fish and other phoney baloney crap. It's got to end, and they've got to go. They're the ones responsible for this global warming hoax, and the primary green reason the economy is in the dumps. Remember it all started going bad when the democrats took over congress, and the senate, in 2006.

The democrats have done a fine job with Kalifornia. When will they return it to Mexico? You have to think yourself into stupidity to vote for these people. The governator is a Kennedy. He is a DISASTER.

people wake up this isn't the fault of environmentalists... as there isn't any real environmentalists in CA. it is the fault of the eco-terrorists down there... you know those tree huggers and fools that think they know about the environment.

All you have to do is look at Earth First... It started in Southern CA and the big wigs down there got a bunch of fools and old hippies to start marijuana plots on small acreages of property in Northern CA from Ft Bragg all along the coast to Eureka and told the fools that if they grow 3 crops for the big wig landowners from Southern Ca they would give them the land. Then others started using the national forest around the king range for their plots and the fake environment feuds began with the loggers. A big cover for Earth First is all it ever was!!!

Uh... as of today the Lockheed/Santa Cruz fire is 65% contained and they're expecting 100% containment on 8/20. Only 2 outbuildings damaged, almost 7000 acres charred.

Nice work, Firefighters. Thank you!

Earth First started in Tucson, AZ, not southern California. Sounds like you could tell a great campfire story.

My best friend fights these fires every year. Anyone who studies fire science and understands soil ecology knows that fire are SUPPOSED to burn and SUPPOSED to happen, this is vital to our ecosystem. We have to deal with the lives we have all chosen, to repopulate, live too close to potential dangers, etc. Environmentalists don't always make the right choices, rednecks don't always make the right choices. Being angry and arrogant spouting off how right your side is, makes for nothing more than a laugh from rational people who actually want to solve problems not just shout ideological catch phrases.

We are all "stupid" to those with opposing views, however, rational thought must win-out if any problems are to be solved.

So many fires of this magnitude are a testament to either very poor or no forest management at all. When is the media going to give attention to the real story instead of the disaster that results from ignoring the cause. Throughout the nation people know what's going on in CA. It's absurd to continue as if The Emporer has any clothes.

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