Friday 19 October 2018

Crews make progress battling Southern California wildfire

High temperatures and dry grass and brush have made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze.

Fire crews line up as they watch a wildfire on a ridge top while protecting a residential area (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Fire crews line up as they watch a wildfire on a ridge top while protecting a residential area (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

By Marcio Sanchez and Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press

Firefighters have made significant progress trying to control a wildfire that threatened homes and has been raging for days south of Los Angeles, officials said.

Aircraft have been making flight after flight, dumping water and retardant to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities as the fire sweeps through the Cleveland National Forest.

The Holy Fire — named after Holy Jim Canyon, where it began on Monday — grew to nearly 33 square miles by Saturday morning. But firefighters also made progress, with containment rising from 10 to 29%.

High temperatures and dry grass and brush have made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze.

Some hillsides were being allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roads into communities if winds pick up again.

Although the fire burned a dozen forest cabins early on, only one home was lost on Thursday as fire crews managed to fend off flames that stalked downhill and came right up to yards.

On Saturday, officials allowed some residents to return to their homes in Lake Elsinore, but others still remained under evacuation orders.

The man accused of deliberately starting the fire appeared in court on Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened and saying the arson charge against him was a lie.

The Holy Fire was one of nearly 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

A fire that broke out near the communities of Fairfield and Vacaville had destroyed a home and two other structures, according to the Vacaville Fire Department.

A firefighter suffered a minor injury battling the blaze, which grew to about 2.6 square miles and was 70% contained by Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The largest fire ever recorded in California — the Mendocino Complex — is burning north of Sacramento and has destroyed 119 homes but none in recent days. The fire had reached 508 square miles and was 67% contained by Saturday.

The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed eight people and burned more than 1,000 homes was 55% contained.

Press Association

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