Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 10:57 UK

Thousands flee California fires


Aerial footage of the wildfires in the Santa Cruz mountains

Thousands of firefighters in California are battling fast-spreading blazes that are threatening homes and livelihoods.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for two communities in the Santa Cruz mountains of northern California, and 2,400 people had to leave their homes.

Further south, 1,600 firefighters were tackling a blaze covering 56 square miles in northern Santa Barbara county.

Other smaller fires were reported around the state, as winds fanned flames through tinder-dry bush land.

Even if the vines don't get burned, there's a smoke taint aspect. A big fire could hurt us either way
Rachel Beauregard
Beauregard Vineyards

Nearly 700 firefighters were tackling the blaze in the Santa Cruz mountains as it threatened more than 1,000 homes.

The 2,000-strong population of Bonny Doon, about 50 miles (80km) south-east of San Francisco, and the 400 residents of nearby Swanton were ordered to leave their homes on Thursday.

'Significant fire'

The blaze, known as the Lockheed Fire because of its proximity to the Lockheed Martin Space Systems campus, started on Wednesday evening and has scorched some 2,800 acres.

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"It is a significant fire that is burning in a rural, inaccessible, steep terrain with vegetation that has been stressed by the drought," said CalFire spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson.

"It is like having firewood in your fireplace that is dry and ready to burn."

But it is not just homes that are under threat. Farms and vineyards are also in the area.

"We're really nervous now," said Rachel Beauregard, who co-owns a vineyard near Bonny Doon, which is preparing for the harvest.

"Even if the vines don't get burned, there's a smoke taint aspect. A big fire could hurt us either way."

Despite the 1,600 firefighters tackling the La Brea fire in northern Santa Barbara county, the blaze was only 10% contained by Thursday morning.

Nearly 200 homes and ranches had been evacuated, but the fire has spread to nearly 26,000 acres of remote national park forest land.

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