July 6, 2008

Coastal Wildfires Rage, More Heat to Come

Thousands of firefighters battled wildfires at Big Sur and near Santa Barbara on the California coast Saturday as the forecast called for more heat next week.

The National Weather Service said hot dry weather is expected to move into the area, making the job of containing the fires more difficult. Forecasters predicted temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in some areas by Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Gap Fire, which began Tuesday near Goleta in Santa Barbara County, was 24 percent contained by Saturday morning. Mandatory evacuation orders for some neighborhoods were lifted, but hundreds more remained in danger.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has ordered 400 National Guard members to join the firefighting effort, visited Goleta Saturday.

He told reporters California was very prepared for fire, but he said he was shocked to wake up one morning and have 500 fires across the state ... only to find the next morning there were 1,000 fires, and the next morning 1,400 fires, and then 1,700 fires igniting over 14 days.

Schwarzenegger said the number of fires was stretching the state's resources thin.

One never has resources for 1,700 fires. Who has the resources for that? he said.

Near Big Sur, 2,000 firefighters attempted to hold the line at Highway 1, protecting hotels and restaurants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. While the fire was only 5 percent contained, no houses had burned since Thursday.