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August 17, 2009

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California fire crews face tough terrain

CALIFORNIA residents are being urged to follow orders to leave their homes as crews struggled to control nearly a dozen wildfires burning in areas with inaccessible terrain.

"These fires will be different than most of the fires because of the terrain," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Saturday during a tour of the Lockheed fire zone.

"It's very hard to get equipment in there and the resources in there. That's why you see a lot of helicopters and fixed winged aircraft being used."

The fire has blackened more than 26 square kilometers of remote wilderness since Wednesday and prompted mandatory evacuations of the mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon, which have about 2,400 residents and several wineries.

Lieutenant-Governor John Garamendi declared a state of emergency on Friday for Santa Cruz County in northern California.

The blaze damaged two small structures and was threatening more than 1,000 homes and buildings.

No homes were destroyed, but Schwarzenegger said 25 firefighters had been injured.

The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

"We pray that they heal as quickly as possible," Schwarzenegger said.

More crews have arrived to help with the blaze, which currently was being held back by a total of 2,000 firefighters, Nadim Yehia of CalFire said on Saturday.

The fire was about 40 percent contained, he added.

Meanwhile, a separate fire in Yuba County north of Sacramento tripled in size on Saturday to more than 15.5 square kilometers as the flames jumped the Yuba River and began burning in Nevada County, according to CalFire spokeswoman Joann Cartoscelli.


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