Santa Cruz blaze keeps spreading

DAVENPORT — Thousands of firefighters battled wildfires across California on Thursday, including a growing blaze that forced about 2,400 people to evacuate their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Lockheed fire, which started about 7 p.m. Wednesday, had scorched about 2,800 acres, or 4.4 square miles, in Santa Cruz County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze, about 10 miles north of city of Santa Cruz, threatened more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.

Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday for Bonny Doon, which has about 2,000 residents and several wineries, but CalFire spokesman Mike Mohler said there have been no reports of structures burned.

Everyone has been ordered to leave nearby Swanton, where about 400 people live.

"It's a significant fire that is burning in a rural, inaccessible, steep terrain with vegetation that has been stressed by the drought," CalFire spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson said. "It's like having firewood in your fireplace that's dry and ready to burn."

The blaze is about three miles from the site of last year's Martin fire, which burned 520 acres and destroyed 11 buildings in Bonny Doon. The rugged terrain and limited access were making it difficult for the 676 firefighters on the scene.

"If it was just on the side of the road, we could drive our trucks right up and hose the fire down," said Mohler. "But it's not, and we have to hike back in to get it."

There have been no reports of injuries related to the fire.

A shelter for evacuees was set up in Santa Cruz, where Linda Lemaster arrived early Thursday after leaving her house near Swanton.

When she got a recorded call to evacuate, she grabbed some of her son's paintings, photos, bedding and some food, she said. Her boyfriend stayed behind to take care of the cats and property.

As she drove away, she saw thick smoke and flames.

"I thought of volcano lava the way it was moving in through the trees," said Lemaster, 60. "If it had kept going like that, it would have headed right to my house."

Farther down the coast, more than 1,800 firefighters were trying to control a wildfire in northern Santa Barbara County that has grown to 75 square miles. More than 170 homes and ranches have been evacuated since the La Brea fire started Saturday. It was about 10 percent contained Thursday.

In far Northern California, two fires forced the evacuation of more than 30 homes.

In Trinity County, about 25 homes were evacuated as gusty winds fed the Coffin fire, which has burned about 1.9 square miles near Lewiston, CalFire said. The mountain community 30 miles west of Redding is home to 1,300 people.

A 60-year-old woman — Brenda Eitzen of Los Molinos — was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of sparking the fire when she threw out a lit cigarette, Jakez said.

The blaze was 40 percent contained Thursday.

Farther east, a fire covering more than 27 square miles forced the evacuation of 10 homes about 10 miles northwest of Burney.

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