California Firefighters Battle More Than 800 Blazes; Evacuations Ordered

By | June 24, 2008

Hundreds of wildfires sparked by lightning have flared across the heart of wine country and remote forests in Northern California, the latest batch of destructive blazes in the bone-dry state. As of Monday, June 23, 2008, there were more than 800 fires burning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has directed additional resources to aggressively fight California’s early wildfires through Cal Fire and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) and activated the DC-10 and DC-7 retardant dropping aircraft today.

“As numerous wildfires burn across the state, I am directing a coordinated state effort to battle these blazes,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “Time and again, our history has demonstrated that we must move early, have the resources available and work together to fight these fires and keep people safe. I commend our brave firefighters for aggressively fighting these fires across the state.”

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is closely monitoring fire activity throughout the state and is working closely with Cal Fire and local jurisdictions to ensure they have access to the resources needed to respond to wildfires and other weather-related disasters.

The following significant fires continue to burn in different parts of the state:
– Indians Fire, Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, which has burned 4,200 acres and is 10 percent contained.

-Ophir Fire is located at 293 Lone Tree near Palermo south of Oroville in Butte County, which has burned 1,600 acres and is 60 percent contained.

-La Grange Fire in the area of Cooperstown and La Grange in Tuolumne County, which has burned 800 acres and is 30 percent contained.

-Pine Fire in Sonoma County, which has burned 860 acres and is 80 percent contained.

Wildfires have destroyed more than 175 homes in Northern California so far this year. Blazes started popping up in the region just as California’s unofficial fire season began in mid-May, following the state’s driest two-month period on record.

Thunderstorms were responsible for as many as 75 fires in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about 160 miles north of Sacramento. None immediately threatened homes, said Forest Service spokesman Michael Odle.

Mendocino County had as many as 90 fires, charring nearly 8 square miles Cal Fire officials said.

South of San Francisco, a fire that started Friday, June 20, 2008, in Santa Cruz County and destroyed homes and closed a stretch of highway was contained after charring just less than a square mile. Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, a day after roughly 2,000 people fled their homes.

It was the third major blaze to hit Santa Cruz County in the past month. A 520-acre blaze destroyed 11 buildings in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a fire near Corralitos covered more than 4,200 acres and destroyed about 100 buildings.

Along the coast in the Los Padres National Forest, a wildfire burning since Saturday forced 75 homes and businesses to be evacuated. And just miles away, firefighters worked to stanch a huge fire that has destroyed two homes since it began two weeks ago. It was nearly 60 percent contained after charring 83 square miles.

In southern New Mexico, firefighters burned out vegetation along a forest road to stop a 67-square-mile wildfire. The fire was 35 percent contained Sunday, fire information officer Deanna Younger said.

Two other lightning-sparked wildfires also had burned nearly 47 square miles. One was west of Roswell in southern New Mexico and the other west of Raton in the northern part of the state.

OES has deployed the following fire resources:
-One Operational Area Satellite Information System (OASIS) Trailer with telephone, data and communications equipment has been deployed to the Indian Fire to assist with fire communications.

-Four of the five new Type 3 wildland fire engines were sent to the La Grange fire in Tuolumne County. These engines are part of a task force to provide additional firefighting resources throughout this Red Flag Warning, high fire danger period in northern California.

Cal Fire has deployed the following fire and rescue resources and activated the following personnel:
-1,227 Cal Fire personnel
-167 fire engines
-51 crews
-7 air tankers
-22 bulldozers
-8 helicopters

For more information on these fires, go to www.oes.ca.gov or http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_current.

On May 9, 2008, the Governor issued Executive Order S-03-08, which boosted the state’s preparedness for wildfire season and directed Cal FIre to immediately mobilize critical firefighting resources and personnel to save lives and homes statewide.

Sources: Associated Press, Cal Fire, Governor’s Office

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