Firefighters gain ground on Lockheed fire

August 15, 2009 6:17:07 PM PDT
CAL FIRE reported Saturday evening that the 6,800-acre Lockheed wildfire was 30 percent contained.

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The fire is filling the sky above Santa Cruz County with smoke and haze that can be seen for miles, even in Watsonville where the governor went Saturday to get an update on the fire.

"We have declared a state of emergency for Santa Cruz County, which took place yesterday, to cut through the red tape and free up all the additional resources that we need in order to get the response as quickly as possible," said

Governor Schwarzenegger made a promise to those impacted by the Lockheed fire, saying the state will do all it can to save their homes and their lives. There are now 2,000 fire fighters working the fast-moving fire which as forced 2,400 people to evacuate.

"Today is going to make or break point with this fire, whether or not we gain any ground on it," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak.

That meant moving ground, trees, and brush, anything that could potentially fuel the fire. The focus of the fight Saturday was on the ground. Bulldozers made more fire lines and breaks while teams took advantage of a drop in wind gusts to widen and clear Swanton Road in Davenport. Keeping that stretch of road fire-free is crucial as it is surrounded by homes.

Weather permitting Saturday night, crews planned to intentionally set fire to a hillside to stop the blaze from spreading.

"The fire is on the other side of this ridge. We don't want it to blow up over, we want to burn up into it, so it won't burn out this way anymore," explained firefighter Shane Kelley.

The communities of Bonny Doon and Swanton Road are still in the fire's path. If the wind shifts, south, as was expected late Saturday, the risk to those areas will grow.

"We now have some more warm weather and windy weather coming in, so now our emphasis is looking at the coastal communities again, and that's where our efforts are being focused today, to keep the fire off the highway and the communities along that area," fire commander Rick Hutchinson told ABC7.

There are 16 helicopters, six planes, and 30 bulldozers working the fire. No homes have been lost in the fire although two outhouses were damaged.

The fire is expected to be contained in about a week.

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