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Winds aid crews by turning back fire

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POSTED May 31, 2013 10:08 p.m.


SANTA CLARITA  (AP) — For a change, winds helped crews working to contain a wildfire burning Friday in rugged mountains north of Los Angeles.

A day earlier, gusts had driven flames toward the rural community of Green Valley and forced people from about 200 homes.

On Friday, winds were pushing the fire southward — back into the 2 1/3 square miles that have already burned.

"The fire is moving uphill and burning into the black," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said. "It is a good thing because it's not going anywhere, it's not moving."

The fire was 15 percent contained and the cause was under investigation.

Television reports showed air tankers and helicopters dumping fire retardant on flare-ups, creating pillars of smoke that dotted scrubby foothills of the Angeles National Forest.

The fire led to the evacuations of a church camp off Lake Elizabeth and a forest service campground called Cottonwood, Judy said. It's unclear how many campers, if any, might be in danger.

There was concern, however, that the 5 to 15 mph winds could shift later in the day and push flames back toward Green Valley.

"All we can do is wait and see," Judy said.

Green Valley residents whose homes were threatened kept a nervous eye on the blaze after they had to evacuate Thursday.

"The embers were coming down. They were so big they were just burning my arms, and you could hear them hit all the oak leaves in the yard," resident Frank Disesso told KNBC-TV. "That made me a nervous wreck."

Some 600 firefighters working in 85-degree heat used hoes, shovels and bulldozers to scrape away brush on the rugged hillsides near Castaic along Interstate 5.

The blaze broke out at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday just north of Powerhouse No. 1, a hydroelectric plant near the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Judy said it burned an outbuilding. One firefighter was slightly injured by a falling rock.

Meanwhile, investigators said a campfire in an approved site caused a blaze that scorched more than 3 square miles in the Los Padres National Forest.

The fire is estimated to have caused $3 million damage and forced the evacuation of thousands of campers when it broke out on Memorial Day. It was fully contained Thursday.

The fire "could have been avoided if this person or persons paid closer attention to their cooking fire," said Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith.

 

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