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California coastal fires still threaten hundreds of homes

Containment figures on the blazes near Santa Cruz and Santa Maria remain low. A state of emergency is declared in Santa Cruz County as rugged terrain, thick brush and gusty winds dog firefighters.

August 15, 2009|Mike Anton

Hundreds of homes remained threatened late Friday by two out-of-control wildfires in mountain areas near Santa Cruz and Santa Maria that cast black plumes of smoke for miles along the Central Coast.

A state of emergency was declared Friday in Santa Cruz County, where the Lockheed fire has damaged two structures and blackened 5,000 acres since Wednesday. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 2,400 people in Bonny Doon and Swanton, communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains where the last major fire occurred in 1948, authorities said.

A thousand firefighters, helicopters and aerial water tankers were deployed. But rugged terrain, thick brush and gusty onshore winds left the blaze only 15% contained.

Similarly, nearly 2,000 firefighters were struggling with a blaze in the Los Padres National Forest 26 miles east of Santa Maria that has scorched more than 69,000 acres, some of which haven't burned since the 1920s.

Firefighters have dug fire lines, lighted backfires and dropped water and retardant on the La Brea fire, now a week old.

But the blaze remains only 10% contained and continues to threaten homes in several Santa Barbara County canyon communities where evacuation orders issued earlier in the week remain in effect.

Forecasts for both regions call for dry, windy conditions throughout the weekend.

The causes of the fires remain under investigation.

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mike.anton@latimes.com

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