Cooler weather aids fight against Calif. wildfire

Associated Press
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Calif. Wildfire Grows As Winds Reverse Direction

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — Cool, moist air moving into Southern California on Sunday helped firefighters build containment lines around a huge wildfire burning through coastal mountains.

Fire crews took advantage of improved conditions as the high winds and hot, dry air of recent days were replaced by the normal Pacific air, significantly reducing fire activity.

The 44-square-mile blaze at the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains was 60 percent surrounded.

Full containment was expected Monday, according to Ventura County fire officials.

The progress led authorities to lift all remaining evacuation orders.

"We've really transitioned from a fire attack to a mop-up patrol," Nick Schuler, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Ventura County Star.

One firefighter was injured in the Newbury Park area while battling the blaze and was taken to a hospital, the newspaper said.

The National Weather Service said an approaching low pressure system would bring a 20 percent chance of showers Sunday afternoon, with the likelihood increasing into the night and on Monday.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters using engines, bulldozers and aircraft worked to corral the blaze.

Firefighting efforts were focused on the fire's east side, rugged canyons that are a mix of public and private lands.

The change in the weather was also expected to bring gusty winds to some parts of Southern California, but well away from the fire area.

Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out Thursday and quickly moved through neighborhoods of Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks has caused damage to just 15 homes, though it has threatened thousands.

The fire also swept through Point Mugu State Park, a hiking and camping area that sprawls between those communities and the ocean. Park district Superintendent Craig Sap said two old, unused ranch-style homes in the backcountry burned. Restrooms and campgrounds also were damaged. Sap estimated repairs would cost $225,000.

Grateful residents hung signs thanking firefighters for saving their homes.

The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year — about 200 more than average.

East of Los Angeles in Riverside County, a new fire that broke out Saturday afternoon burned 650 acres of wilderness south of Banning. It was 75 percent contained Sunday. Banning has been flanked by a nearly 5-square-mile fire to the north which destroyed one home shortly after it broke out Wednesday. That fire was fully contained late Saturday.

In Northern California, a fire that has blackened 11 square miles of wilderness in Tehama County was a threat to a pair of commercial properties near the community of Butte Meadows, according to Cal Fire.

Thunderstorms were expected to bring erratic winds but little rain to the area about 200 miles north of San Francisco.

Nearly 1,300 firefighters were on the lines and the blaze, which started Wednesday, was 40 percent contained.

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