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California governor declares state of emergency as 2 wildfires rage

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Wildfires spread in Southern California
  • NEW: West fire has spread to 1,230 acres
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declares a state of emergency in Kern County
  • All state government agencies are ordered to mobilize resources
  • Fire prompts at least 2,300 evacuations

(CNN) -- Two roaring wildfires in southern California prompted at least 2,300 evacuations and a state of emergency late Tuesday.

More than 15,000 acres have burned down, officials said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency in Kern County in the southern Central Valley, according to a news release Tuesday night.

The fire in the Sequoia National Forest had spread across roughly 6,000 acres by Tuesday, said spokeswoman Michelle Puckett of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

About 300 additional firefighters joined a battle to contain it Tuesday, making it a total of 1,000 personnel fighting the flames.

The fire in the secluded, electricity- and water-free community of Old West Ranch near the small city of Tehachapi covers at least 1,230 acres and is being fought by 250 fire personnel and strike teams, the Kern County Fire Department said early Wednesday.

The west fire devoured 30 to 40 homes and threatened 150 more structures, the department said.

"The circumstances of these wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city and county, or city and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

All state government agencies are ordered to mobilize resources to aid the county, the statement said.

Puckett said earlier Tuesday that higher temperatures have helped stoke the Sequoia fire's flames. The fire started about 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. She said the cause of the blaze is under investigation, but "we've heard reports that it might be human caused."

What sparked the West Fire is unknown as well, Romero said.

"It's going to be a long night," said Romero, who estimated more than 100 people had evacuated.

The fire department recommended that all residents evacuate the Old West Ranch area Tuesday afternoon. It said a shelter was being set up at a local junior high school.

Authorities evacuated campers as well as residents in the National Park's Riverkern community, where six homes were destroyed. Some of the evacuated campers were escorted back to retrieve their belongings. Authorities have relocated a number of campers to the Lake Isabella area.

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.