Firefighter Nick Milton hikes the steep terrain in Swanton, Calif., where the 2,000 acre Lockheed Fire has spread on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2009. A fire burning in Northern California has forced officials to order hundreds of residents to leave their homes in the mountains north of Santa Cruz. (AP Photo/Santa Cruz Sentinel, Dan Coyro)
Hundreds of residents returned home when an evacuation order was lifted in a Santa Cruz mountain town Sunday, even as hot and dry winds fanned nearly a dozen wildfires across the state.
Bonny Doon residents trickling home along newly-reopened roads were relieved to be out of immediate danger, but still apprehensive because containment lines built by firefighters are holding back only half the blaze. That fire has burned through about 10 square miles of the rugged terrain since Wednesday.
The fire was about 65% contained by Monday morning. Cal Fire says crews should have full containment by Thursday.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Santa Cruz's Lockheed Fire was among 11 burning in the state. A state of emergency was declared in the county, while other blazes forced evacuations and knocked out power in other parts of the state.
Margaret Kliegel was at the fire command center in Davenport on Sunday afternoon dropping off bread and cookies for the fire crew when she learned she could return home. She left her house Thursday as the flames shot into the air three miles away.
"We've lived here for close to 40 years so you got all your mementos and family things, and you don't know if you'll have a home to go back to," Kliegel said. "Second time in 14 months that these guys have saved us."
The news wasn't as good for Bob McAuliffe, a carpenter who lives on a two-story home on Last Chance Road with his wife, chickens, dogs, cats and cockatiels. They all left under orders, and remained under mandatory evacuation for a third day.
"I'm just anxious to get home," he said.
Fire crews were unable to fight the blaze by air Sunday because of the heavy smoke, but made good progress on the ground along the western and southern ends of the wildfire, said Paul Provence, a state fire department engineer.
Crews planned to clear the canyon of heavy brush on Monday, he said.
"The danger is still real," Provence said. "It still could pop up on us."
Crews reinforced the firefighting effort Sunday, totaling 2,165 firefighters.