Wildfire near Silicon Valley forces evacuations

GILROY, California Thu May 22, 2008 5:02pm EDT

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GILROY, California (Reuters) - Nearly 200 people were evacuated on Thursday from the path of a wind-swept fire spreading rapidly in a mountainous area south of San Jose and near the city of Gilroy, California, officials said.

There were no reports of injuries among evacuees or among 500 firefighters on the scene.

The blaze has engulfed 3,000 acres since it began on Thursday morning in a mountainous region about 20 miles south of San Jose, said Wayne Rhoten, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Winds blowing at about 40 mph (64 kph) and gusting to 50 mph (80.5 kph) sent embers across fire lines. "That's the main reason the fire is so difficult," said Richard Rawson, another spokesman for the state's firefighting department.

At least 10 homes scattered through the wooded area have been consumed and another 40 are considered threatened, said Clay Bentson, a Gilroy Fire Department battalion chief.

Officials said they expected the blaze to grow in size before the end of Thursday.

(Reporting by Jason Bennert and Amanda Beck; Writing by Amanda Beck; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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