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Firefighters attack river of flame northeast of LA

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 07:32 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2010



PALMDALE, Calif.  — Aircraft and about 500 firefighters attacked a river of flame running through grassy hills northeast of Los Angeles Friday as residents of about 1,000 homes waited to see if the blaze is kept away.

The wildfire in the Antelope Valley has burned at least three outbuildings, and homes in Leona Valley and Anaverde were still evacuated.

A mandatory evacuation for another 1,000 homes in Rancho Vista was canceled early Friday after the flames stopped at the California Aqueduct, with the concrete channel acting as a natural firebreak on the fire's eastern edge, Los Angeles County fire Inspector Matt Levesque said.

"That fire burned right up to the homes (but there is) no more fuel for it to burn. It's out on that flank," he said.

The fire was about 5 percent surrounded and was expanding north and west, threatening homes in Leona Valley and Anaverde, Levesque said.

About 500 firefighters and aircraft were fighting the blaze, aided by cool, windless morning weather. However, a forecast of gusty afternoon winds and a high of 98 degrees was expected to pose a challenge for crews, Levesque said.

The fire that erupted Thursday afternoon surged through more than 7 square miles of grass and brush, with flames leaping 50 feet at times overnight.

Television reports showed at least two homes burning but Levesque said he could only confirm two buildings and a hay storage facility were destroyed.

A communications repeater and about a dozen power poles were down but no major damage was reported to major electrical transmission lines that crisscross the area, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Cathy Hart said.

"Those lines were de-energized Thursday evening, to reduce danger to firefighters," Hart said. "De-energizing the lines did not cause outages."

The fire broke out north of a state highway that snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains, connecting Los Angeles to the high desert. Angeles National Forest lands lie on either side.

"Man, it looks bad outside. If I step outside the restaurant, it's just insane-looking — black and orange smoke and helicopters going through, dropping water," said Jamie Karschamroon, 29, the co-owner of Crazy Otto's diner in Leona Valley.

The area is west of the 250-square-mile zone scorched by last summer's Station Fire, the largest wildland blaze in county history.

About 200 firefighters contained another blaze at 350 acres, Levesque said. A third fire was stopped at 30 acres.

Further north in Kern County, good weather helped firefighters build containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.

A 2 1/2-square-mile blaze near Tehachapi on the western edge of the Mojave Desert was 46 percent contained after burning about 30 homes and other structures in a scattered community called Old West Ranch.

The community nonetheless remained evacuated, affecting about 150 people, said John Buchanan, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze erupted Tuesday afternoon and rapidly swept through an area where Kern County fire authorities say there is no history of any fires on record, meaning vegetation hadn't burned there in more than a century.

To the north, a fire that destroyed eight residences and a few outbuildings as it spread across about 26 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was 55 percent contained, authorities said.

The cause of the fires is under investigation.






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