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California in Brief / GILROY

Calmer winds aid firefighters

May 25, 2008|From the Associated Press

Firefighters took advantage of lower temperatures and calmer winds Saturday as they struggled to gain control of a wildfire that has burned centuries-old redwood forests, displaced hundreds of residents and destroyed at least 20 homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Strong overnight winds up to 45 mph caused the blaze to grow to more than 3,800 acres and spread from Santa Cruz County to Santa Clara County early Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 50 homes in the small community of Sveadal near Uvas Canyon County Park were evacuated.

Firefighting efforts were helped by lower temperatures, lighter winds and higher humidity Saturday.

But officials were concerned that a threatening storm could bring lightning and heavier drafts that could cause the fire to spread, Battalion Chief Dave Shew said.

The fire was still only about 35% contained Saturday and was expected to grow to 4,000 acres before it is controlled over the next week, fire officials said.

Four firefighters have suffered minor injuries.

The fire, which started Thursday, has destroyed 38 structures and threatens 570 buildings in the mountainous region about 15 miles south of San Jose.

About 2,000 residents have been asked or ordered to evacuate since the fire started, and officials say it is still not safe for them to return, Shew said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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