AP Nation / World

Aug 23, 12:19 AM EDT

Thousands of firefighters still on California fire lines


SAN SIMEON, Calif. (AP) -- More than 10,000 firefighters battled wildfires Monday from California's Central Coast to Sierra Nevada forests or mopped up remnants of destructive blazes beaten into submission up and down the state.

Nearly 1,900 structures were threatened by the nearly 52-square-mile blaze in coastal San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, where more than 2,400 people were under evacuation orders, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Despite its being well over a week old, the fire surged with new activity on Monday and threatened to jump the lines that were containing it.

By day's end the blaze remained 35 percent contained after destroying 34 homes and 14 other buildings.

Hearst Castle, the palatial ocean-view estate built by the late newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and a major stop on summer road trips, remained closed because of proximity to the fire.

Eighty miles up the coast, California's biggest fire grew to nearly 135 square miles in rugged wilderness coast along Highway 1 north of Big Sur.

More than 400 homes remained threatened by the fire, which was started July 22 by an illegal campfire and has destroyed 57 homes and 11 other buildings. A bulldozer operator was killed in a rollover accident last month.

The prevalence of poison oak in the region was proving a problem. Five hundred firefighters, including 200 in the past three days, had sought treatment after contact with the toxic shrub, authorities said.

In the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara, a wildfire expanded to nearly 37 square miles as it chewed through critically dry brush, grass and oak canopies.

Just 20 percent contained, the blaze has caused the closure of campgrounds and recreation areas but remains far from communities. It was, however, a threat to vegetation in watersheds important to supplies on the south coast of Santa Barbara County.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, a fire feeding on critically dry, beetle-killed timber expanded to more than 30 square miles of Sequoia National Forest in Kern and Tulare counties northwest of Lake Isabella.

Nearly 1,600 people in 13 small communities were under mandatory evacuations orders and evacuations were recommended for a half-dozen others, said fire spokesman Naaman Horn. He said the fire is within a mile of the community of Alta Sierra in Kern County.

Thunderstorms Monday brought gusty winds that pushed the fire toward homes and other structures but firefighters were able to protect them. Night-flight helicopters will be used through the night to protect communities near the blaze, fire officials said.

Sixty miles east of Los Angeles, minimal activity was seen at fire that burned nearly 58 square miles and 105 homes in Cajon Pass and the San Gabriel Mountains last week. With all evacuations lifted, firefighters were extinguishing hotspots and doing erosion control while utility crews replaced infrastructure lost to the blaze.

At Lower Lake, 80 miles north of San Francisco, recovery efforts remained underway in the aftermath of hard-hit Lake County's latest wildfire, which destroyed 189 homes since erupting Aug. 13. A man has been charged with arson in connection with that fire and others.

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