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Crews making progress battling California wildfires

Posted: August 14, 2012 1:30 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2012 1:30 p.m.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of firefighters across California are still contending with dry conditions, strong winds and, in some cases, triple-digit temperatures as they continue to battle raging wildfires.

In Northern California, hundreds of evacuees were allowed to return home as crews continue to make progress against a wildfire that has now grown to about 5 square miles.

The blaze in Lake County is now 30 percent contained after nearly threatening 500 homes in the Spring Valley and Long Valley communities, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said Tuesday.

Those homeowners were allowed to return home Monday night as the fire is more active on the eastern edge which is unpopulated and plenty of open brush.

"Even though we've allowed the residents to return on the west side, this fire still has the potential to grow," Berlant said. "We're just fortunate that it has moved away from the homes while continuing to burn."

Berlant said while the more than 1,100 firefighters at the scene are putting out hot spots, they still faced with dry conditions and 100-plus degree temperatures.

"It's been the heat, not the winds," Berlant said. "There's almost zero moisture inside the brush which hasn't burned in decades. It's very thick and overgrown."

A home and two structures have been destroyed in the fire, officials said.

Also in far Northern California, the Chips Fire in the Plumas National Forest continues to threaten about 900 homes and has prompted evacuation orders in the Seneca and Rush Creek communities.

On Monday, the Plumas County Sheriff issued a voluntary evacuation for residents in areas along Highway 70 as firefighters made progress with the fire along the northern edge.

The fire has burned about roughly 57 square miles and it remains 12 percent contained.

"We do have containment lines and, depending on what the forces of nature bring us, we're going to continue improving our lines and keep an eye on what lies ahead," said Jennifer Velez, a fire spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, a cluster of four lightning-sparked wildfires in northeastern San Diego County has stretched to nearly 4 square miles, state fire officials said.

The largest blaze, in the Vallecito Complex, was only 5 percent contained on Tuesday. Firefighting costs there have topped $800,000, officials said.

Officials added that there is also threat to electrical distribution lines in Grapevine Canyon that serve the communities of Borrego Springs, Warner Springs and Ranchita, some 50 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Elsewhere in Southern California, a 269-acre fire in the Joshua Tree National Park is 35 percent contained and San Bernardino County firefighters have a 60-acre blaze near Needles that is under 60 percent containment.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



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