October 17, 2008

Calif. Wildfires Begin to Ease As Strong, Dry Winds Weaken

By William M. Welch

LOS ANGELES -- One wildfire is completely contained, and a second should be wrapped up this weekend if winds remain calm, fire officials said.

The two fires -- which destroyed more than 50 homes, blackened more than 19,000 acres on the edge of the city and were blamed for two deaths -- eased up when strong, dry desert winds diminished.

A red flag warning of dangerous fire conditions remained in effect for much of Southern California today as low humidity levels left vegetation vulnerable to fire, the National Weather Service said.

A fire that began in the Angeles National Forest was completely contained Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). It burned 4,824 acres and destroyed 40 residences.

"We're in mop-up and control status," said Dee Dechert, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Another fire on the edge of the city's San Fernando Valley was 90% contained, and firefighters hoped to have it contained by Saturday, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Sam Padilla said. Fifteen homes were destroyed, according to CalFire, and 14,375 acres were scorched.

"It's gone down significantly," Padilla said. "We don't have the high Santa Ana winds that were feeding the fire."

A third fire on the grounds of Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps base in northern San Diego County, was 90% contained, CalFire said. No homes or structures were destroyed in the blaze, which burned 4,026 acres. Los Angeles fire officials said the San Fernando Valley fire was caused by a power line that fell onto dry brush. Causes of the other fires are under investigation. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>