By LOUISE CHU
Associated Press Writer
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) -- Hot, dry winds and high temperatures fanned wildfires across California Sunday, pushing firefighters into rugged terrain to contain the flames and guard against new blazes.
"Things are so dry out there that it doesn't take much for a spark or an ember to quickly develop into a wildfire," said CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
A fire near the Santa Cruz mountain communities of Swanton and Bonny Doon was about 50 percent contained Sunday, after burning 10 square miles since Wednesday and leading to mandatory evacuations of about 2,400 residents. The blaze threatened more than 250 homes and had damaged two outbuildings. More crews were arriving to fight the flames, totaling 2,165 firefighters on Sunday.
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.
Red Cross volunteers said only a handful of evacuees have been sleeping at the Santa Cruz shelter because most have homeowners' insurance that pays for hotel stays, but about 100 people have showed up each morning for briefings from state fire officials.
Chris Sokoloff, who has spent three nights at the evacuation center, said residents appeared calmer at Sunday's briefing after they heard the fire was half contained. But many were still anxious, he said.
"Who doesn't jump to the worst case scenario?" he asked. "There's a nervous optimism."
A fire in Yuba County, north of Sacramento, had burned more than 3 square miles after jumping the Yuba River and moving away from the Sierra Nevada foothills community of Dobbins, which had been threatened. About 120 residents who had left their homes were able to return, Berlant said.
"It's being fanned by the wind," he said.
That fire, which was ignited by burning feathers from a red-tailed hawk that flew into a power line, was more than 15 percent contained, but about 600 homes were still threatened Sunday. Voluntary evacuations remain in effect for parts of the community.
The Colgate Powerhouse - the oldest powerhouse in the state - and two others were powered down, along with four major power lines. Together, they produce 300 Megawatts of power for the area.
About 1,385 fire personnel are in the area fighting that blaze, though the steep, rough terrain made their work difficult.
In Alameda County more than 330 firefighters were gaining ground on a grass fire that burned about 23 square miles near Tracy, said Alameda County Fire department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles.
The Corral Fire was 85 percent contained.
"It's dying down, but firefighters remain vigilant, reinforcing containment lines," said Knowles, adding that fire officials expected full containment by Sunday night.
Meanwhile, winds were helping crews beat back a week-old wildfire in northern Santa Barbara County that investigators say was started by a camp fire used by marijuana growers.
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Pasinato said the fire was 60 percent contained Sunday morning. The blaze has burned nearly 134 square miles of timber and brush in and around the Los Padres National Forest about 20 miles east of Santa Maria.
Pasinato says residents are being let back into homes in the Tepusquet Canyon area Sunday. An unknown number of homes and ranches remain under evacuation orders on the fire's eastern edge.
Smoke and ash from the fire whirled into the Los Angeles area Saturday, prompting an unusual weather forecast of "scattered smoke."
Associated Press Writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco contributed to this report.