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At least 30 homes burned in Tehachapi wildfire

July 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A wildfire burning near Tehachapi, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, has destroyed about 30 to 40 homes, firefighters said Tuesday.Kern County Fire Department Engineer Anthony Romero said the fire erupted about 3 p.m. and quickly grew to more than 500 acres.

Along with waterdropping aircraft, officials said about 200 firefighters were on the scene as 150 structures were threatened.

The small hill community known as Old West Ranch was evacuated.

"The wind has been a big factor. It's changing on us a lot," Romero said. "Now it's blowing from the southeast, going over a couple of ridges."

There was zero containment, Romero said.

"I've got a lot of friends up in Old West Ranch, and we've been calling," said Tehachapi resident Mike Niccoli. "We can't get a hold of anybody," he said.

Niccoli said the fire was spewing thick, black smoke and looked to be about 1½ miles wide. He said he was about two miles from the blaze and could see flames topping the tall pines in the area.

A shelter for displaced residents was set up at the Old Jacobs Junior High School in Tehachapi.

An eight-square-mile wildfire in Sequoia National Forest earlier in northern Kern County caused the evacuation of a camp for juvenile offenders near Kernville. It also destroyed six homes in the area.

The cause of the blaze, which began Monday, is under investigation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for Kern County on Tuesday, freeing up state resources to battle the fires.

In far northeastern California, crews have 30 percent containment of lightning fires that have burned 250 acres of timber in Lassen County.

So far, both fires have charred about 15,000 acres.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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