Thousands flee southern California blaze - East Valley Tribune: News

Thousands flee southern California blaze

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Posted: Monday, July 19, 2004 11:21 am | Updated: 4:47 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - Dry, windy weather on Monday hampered efforts to contain a wildfire in northern Los Angeles County that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, one of several blazes that crews were battling in the state.

Nearly 1,600 homes in Santa Clarita had been evacuated since the fire began Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or structural damage.

Evacuation orders were lifted for Fair Oaks Ranch after the fire burned through the area without destroying any homes. But several hundred homes remained evacuated Monday in Sand and Placerita canyons, said county fire Inspector Ed Osorio.

More than 1,500 firefighters aided by helicopters and bulldozers were battling the 5,710-acre blaze, which was 39 percent contained Monday morning.

Flare-ups fanned by the erratic wind prevented crews from gaining much ground during the night despite lower temperatures.

"They didn't make as much progress last night, not as much as we wanted," Osorio said. "Today, our main concern is structure protection and making sure the homes aren't damaged."

The fire, started by a red-tail hawk that was electrocuted on a power line, forced authorities to temporarily close a 10-mile stretch of the Antelope Valley Freeway east of Interstate 5.

Savage says fire crews haven't lost any homes yet. (watch for dating; refeed)

It was one of several fires around California, from eastern San Diego County to Yosemite National Park, that have burned more than 40,000 acres. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sunday approved a request for federal funds for the blaze, one of six such requests in California during the past week.

A 3,600-acre fire about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside County was 50 percent contained Sunday.

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Sunday for about 500 homes, but voluntary evacuations were issued for 200 others, said Jim Boano, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry. The fire destroyed three homes and 11 outbuildings.

The blaze started when someone shooting target practice sparked a flame that spread to vegetation, officials said. The shooter was cited and may have to pay firefighting costs, Boano said.

Elsewhere, firefighters were making steady progress against a wildfire that has been burning since July 12, about 45 miles north of Los Angeles. The arson fire was about 80 percent contained Sunday and had charred 17,418 acres, destroying three homes and five outbuildings.

Nearly 1,000 people from rural communities had left earlier in the week but returned to their homes Sunday. One firefighter died in a traffic accident while returning home from the fire's front.

A lightning-sparked wildfire in Yosemite National Park was being allowed to burn because its slow-moving flames were cleaning the forest floor. The blaze had scorched at least 3,000 acres and forced the closure of several popular trails.

In western Nevada, fire crews have started mopping up the last of the embers from a fire that destroyed 15 homes and burned to within a half-mile of the governor's mansion in Carson City. The wind-driven fire started Wednesday and spread across 7,566 acres along a Sierra foothill ridge. It was 95 percent contained Sunday and officials said full containment was expected by Tuesday night. The cause was an illegal campfire.

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