Thousands evacuated in Northern California wildfire

Saturday, June 21st 2008, 8:12 am
By: News 9

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- A fast-moving fire erupted Friday along the Northern California coast, burning homes, forcing hundreds of residents to flee and backing up traffic for miles on a scenic highway.

There was no immediate estimate of how many homes were threatened in the area, where dead grass and other vegetation was burning.

The fire had burned 1,000 acres, less than 2 square miles, and sent thick black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

Evacuations were mandatory. Chris Hirsch, a spokeswoman for Santa Cruz County, said the 2,000 evacuees were being taken to a school.

Some homes were burning, but there was no indication how many, Hirsch said.

Paul Van Gerwen, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said "numerous structures" are threatened.

Helicopters were dropping water and fire retardant, Van Gerwen said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Van Gerwen noted that multiple grass fires appeared to have merged into the larger blaze.

The California Highway Patrol closed 6 miles of Highway 1, where traffic was backed up for miles.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)