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Schwarzenegger declares state of emergency in San Bernardino County, where 2 wildfires are burning

September 1, 2009 | 12:01 pm


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County today in the wake of two major fires that have led to the evacuation of Oak Glen and to hundreds of other evacuations in nearby Yucaipa.

The governor made his announcement during a press conference at the fire command center at Yucaipa Regional Park.

"We are doing everything we can to save life and save property," he said as water-dropping helicopters swooped in behind him to fill up at a pond a few hundred yards away. The reason why things are running so well is the coordination between state and local firefighters."

So far the Oak Glen III fire has burned 1,012 acres and is 40% contained, while the Pendleton fire has burned 640 acres and is 45% contained with 400 homes threatened.

Schwarzenegger appeared with local and state fire officials and made a plea for the Legislature to pass the Emergency Response Initiative, which he said would make $100 million available to fight fires throughout California.

"We have the money to fight these fires but if we pass this we will have $100 million more," he said.

Sheldon Gilbert, president of the California Fire Chiefs Assn., said the money would make 130 engines available, replace aircraft and reimburse local governments that send firefighters statewide.

"While we are prepared today we don't see the California fire problem going away tomorrow," he said.

Officials also said the two Super Scooper planes sitting at Van Nuys Airport are ready to go into action as soon as the crew gets an orientation.

Schwarzenegger praised the fire crews as the best in the world and vowed that no matter what the cost, public safety would always be his No. 1 concern. After he spoke, the governor walked down to the pond and and waved at the helicopter pilots refilling their water tanks.

Schwarzenegger has called states of emergency in these counties: Placer, Mariposa, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Yuba.

-- David Kelly in Yucaipa

Photo: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger views a statewide fire map with the director of Cal Fire, Del Walters, left, during a visit to the command post of the Oak Glen III fire. Schwarzenegger received a briefing on the status of firefighting efforts statewide. The governor declared a state of emergency for San Bernadino County, where the Oak Glen Fire is located. Credit: EPA/Paul Buck