DAVENPORT, Calif. – 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 around 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 the coastal city of Santa Cruz, threatened more than 1,000 homes and other buildings and was not contained by late Thursday.
Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday for the entire community of Bonny Doon, which has about 2,000 residents and several wineries, but CalFire spokesman Mike Mohler said there have been no reports of any homes destroyed or other structures burned.
Everyone also has been ordered to leave the nearby community of 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 in June 2008. The area's rugged terrain and limited access were making it difficult for the 676 firefighters on the scene battling the blaze.
"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."
More firefighters are due to arrive tomorrow, said Mohler. Six firefighting helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft are also expected.
There have been no reports of injuries related to the fire, whose cause is under investigation, said CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Law enforcement officers went door to door Thursday as residents watered down their homes, aiming sprinklers and hoses at the rooftops. They loaded bicycles, pets, computers and other valuables into their cars and trucks.
Many had to evacuate last year when flames threatened the area.
Nancy Macallister said she was disappointed about the mandatory evacuation but said it's reasonable.
"The fire's big, the fire's hot, there's some rough terrain and the afternoon winds should be coming this direction, so it makes sense. They're trying to keep people safe," she said.
A shelter for evacuees was set up in Santa Cruz, where Linda Lemaster arrived early Thursday after leaving her house on Last Chance Road 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."
Rachel Beauregard, co-owner of Beauregard Vineyards in Bonny Doon, said the winery is just getting ready for the harvest.
"We're really nervous right now," said Beauregard, who had to evacuate Thursday. "Even if the vines don't get burned, there's the smoke taint aspect. A big fire could hurt us either way."
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 morning.
A temporary emergency shelter was set up at a high school in New Cuyama, and there was a shelter for larger animals like horses and cattle in Santa Maria.
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 winds fed the Coffin Fire, which has burned about 1.9 square miles near Lewiston, CalFire spokeswoman Mickie Jakez 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, and firefighters hoped for complete containment Friday if winds cooperate.
Farther east, a fire covering more than 27 square miles forced the evacuation of 10 homes about 10 miles northwest of Burney, which is located 200 miles north of Sacramento. The Shu Fire was 70 percent contained Thursday evening.
Firefighters have nearly contained three other lightning-caused fires in Shasta and Lassen counties.