Firefighters Make Progress On Santa Cruz Wildfire

Days of moist, cool weather helped firefighters get a handle on a destructive wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains that had scorched nearly 4,000 acres and at least three dozen homes.

Easing winds and lower temperatures helped keep the blaze from
spreading and fire crews now have the blaze 70 percent contained,
according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.

"It's really not moving at all," said David Coursey, a department spokesman.

The fire was expected to be fully surrounded by Tuesday, fire officials said. The blaze still threatened 100 homes.

While some evacuees were being let in on an hour-by-hour basis to survey the damage, hundreds of residents remained under evacuation orders following the outbreak of the fire in the mountainous region about 15 miles south of San Jose.

Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries.

In a community meeting at a church Sunday afternoon, residents eager to sleep in their own beds Sunday were given bad news. Officials said a quick turn in weather could re-ignite the blaze, and that they would have to wait until Tuesday to return home.

Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 personnel worked to cut fire lines through centuries-old redwood forests as a swarm of helicopters and air tankers doused flames from the sky.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties to allow access to state funds. The firefighting effort has cost $9.3 million so far, Coursey said.

Smoke from the wildfire has left a haze over the San Francisco Bay area that was expected to linger through the Memorial Day weekend.

Investigators are still probing the cause of the fire, which broke out just as the state's unofficial fire season got under way in mid-May. The blaze erupted following the state's driest two-month period on record.

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