California wildfires force more evacuations
Firefighters struggled to gain control of a series of wind-driven wildfires burning across Northern California, including a raging forest fire that forced hundreds to flee their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The fast-moving blaze about 10 miles northwest of Santa Cruz grew to 900 acres — or about 1 1/2 square miles — Wednesday night after it broke around 3 p.m. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 500 residents in the heavily forested hills. Voluntary evacuations were in place for another 1,000 residents.
The fire threatened hundreds of homes and could spread, Battalion Chief Paul Van Gerwen said. About 650 firefighters were expected to be in place by Thursday morning.
The Santa Cruz fire flared just two weeks after another blaze two miles away scorched about 6 1/2 square miles and destroyed at least three dozen homes.
"We've had very active winds, low humidity and high heat. As you know, that's a recipe for disaster," said Joshpae White, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Those weather conditions also prevailed throughout the rest of Northern California, where hundreds of firefighters were deployed on fire lines from the North Coast wine country to the Central Valley.
For a second day, erratic wind gusts surprised firefighters who were overrun by flames.
Three firefighters were burned near Lincoln, about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, when they were caught in a 65-acre grass fire burning in a dry rice field. Two of them had moderate to severe burns to their faces and arms, while the third was treated for minor facial burns.
The extreme fire danger was expected to last through Thursday, with temperatures hitting 100 degrees throughout the Central Valley. Felix Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said winds are expected to decrease, which would help the firefighting efforts.