San Francisco, July 6 (DPA) Firefighters continue to battle blazes in California two weeks after lightening strikes ignited heavy forest and shrub fires on the US west coast.July 6th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS
Several thousand people evacuated areas of Big Sur and Santa Barbara over the weekend. In Big Sur already 20 homes have been gutted and over a thousand structures still are in danger, according the state fire fighting agency Cal Fire. More than 1,700 fires have burned in California since the first lighting storms on June 20, over 2,000 sq. km.
More than 20,000 personnel are fighting the flames, backed by 1,500 fire trucks and more than 100 aircraft dropping water.
Firefighters from 40 US states are assisting with the fire and 200 national guard members are training to fight the ongoing battle under orders from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
An additional 200 national guard soldiers are to report for training on Monday.
The Basin Fire in Big Sur is still very active, a Cal Fire spokesperson said Saturday. The same is true for the so-called Gap Fire near Santa Barbara that started July 1.
An official estimate of the current cost of fire fighting has not yet been made, but in the last fiscal year (June 2006 to June 2007) $392 million was spent by the state to fight wildfires.
Over the weekend flames have been fanned by high winds. About 1,400 residents near the Gap Fire were instructed by police to pack suitcases Saturday in preparation for a mandatory evacuation.
About 1,800 homes were already empty Friday. Statewide, eight counties are under an emergency declaration.