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California wildfires 'far from over' after three days

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-16

A state of emergency was called for Santa Cruz County in southern California, where wildfires have been burning for three days, forcing up to 2,400 people to evacuate. The fire was "far from over", warned the state's governor on Friday.

AFP - California's Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi declared a state of emergency Friday in Santa Cruz county, where wildfires have burned for three days, prompting the evacuation of 2,000 people.
  
"A major fire has engulfed Santa Cruz county, and they are in great need of resources to bolster what is being done at the local level to fight these fires," he said in a statement.
  
"I have toured the damage and visited the operational center, and this fire is far from over," he added.
  
California's fire prevention agency Calfire said on its website Friday that Santa Cruz county, 560 kilometers (348 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, had ordered the evacuation of between 2,200 and 2,400 people and that more than 250 homes were threatened by the flames in the communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon.
  
The agency added that the flames have destroyed more than 1,600 hectares (3,954 acres) and only around five percent of the blazes are under control.
  
Wind conditions throughout the region are making it difficult for the 700 firefighters deployed across the area to battle the flames, and while uneven terrain makes ground operations difficult, the fire is too powerful to be tackled from the air.
  
The state of emergency will allow Santa Cruz to receive financial support and aid for infrastructure rebuilding.
  
What caused the fires remains uncertain, Calfire said.
  
Californian firefighters have also since Saturday been battling a fire in the Los Padres national forest, north of Santa Barbara -- a heavily populated area.
  
By Friday, Calfire said, blazes had destroyed more than 27,000 hectares (66,718 acres) of vegetation and just 10 percent of the flames were under control, despite the large number of firefighters dispatched to battle the fires.
  
California is frequently hit by wildfires and in 2007 suffered the worst blazes in its history.
  
Those fires forced the evacuations of 640,000 residents and destroyed around 2,000 homes.

Date created : 2009-08-15

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