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More help coming for Calif. fires

DAVENPORT, Calif. — California deployed more fire crews across the state Friday to gain control of a series of growing wildfires that have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Lockheed Fire has prompted officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders for about 2,400 people in the mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz County.

The blaze, which started Wednesday night, blackened 6.4 square miles of remote wilderness and was only about 5 percent contained Friday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire, about 10 miles north of the coastal city of Santa Cruz, has damaged only two small structures but was threatening more than 1,000 others. There have been no reports of injuries related to the fire, whose cause is under investigation.

The Lockheed Fire was about three miles from the site of last June's Martin Fire, which burned 520 acres and destroyed 11 buildings in Bonny Doon, home to about 2,000 people and several wineries.

The area's rugged terrain and limited access were hampering the roughly 700 firefighters currently at the scene. About 300 more firefighters, six helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft were expected Friday, officials said.

Higher humidity from overnight fog and light winds were also welcome news to ground crews trying to prevent the fire from spreading.

"It was burning within the interior of where the fire is," CalFire spokesman Mike Mohler told the Monterey Herald. "The fire didn't move forward ... It's absolutely great news."

Smoke plumes extended over 50 miles from Santa Cruz to Monterey, but winds were blowing the smoke out toward the Pacific Ocean, said Richard Stedman, director of the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District. Officials were monitoring air quality, but do not believe it has reached unhealthy levels.

Farther down the coast, more than 1,800 firefighters were battling a wildfire around the Los Padres National Forest that had grown to nearly 105 square miles by Friday morning, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Valerie Baca.

More than 230 homes and ranches in canyons and ridges near the La Brea Fire are under evacuation orders as a week-old wildfire continues to grow in northern Santa Barbara County.

Hot, dry conditions were expected Friday.

In Alameda County, a grass fire near the Altamont Pass has grown to about 16 square miles in a mostly remote area north of Interstate 580. The Corral Fire was about 10 percent contained Friday morning.

In far northern California, two separate wildfires forced the evacuation of more than 30 homes.

In Trinity County, about 25 homes were evacuated as gusty wind fed the Coffin Fire, which has burned about 1.9 square miles near Lewiston, CalFire spokeswoman Mickie Jakez said. The blaze was 50 percent contained Friday.

Brenda Eitzen, 60, of Los Molinos has been arrested on suspicion of sparking the fire when she threw out a lit cigarette, Jakez said.

Farther east, a fire covering more than 27 square miles forced the evacuation of 10 homes near Burney, which is about 200 miles north of Sacramento. More than 1,600 firefighters were working on the Shu Fire, which was 70 percent contained Friday.

Firefighters have nearly contained three other lightning-caused fires in Shasta and Lassen counties.


Associated Press Writers Terence Chea in San Francisco and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.