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Cooler weather helps battle California wildfire


Cooling temperatures helped firefighters Saturday battle a raging California blaze that has threatened 4,000 homes in the rugged hills north of Malibu, officials said.

Higher humidity also brought relief for the nearly 2,000 personnel fighting the Springs Fire, which has damaged 15 homes since breaking out Thursday 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Los Angeles.

But firefighters urged caution about the weather. "We're going to try to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and onshore breeze," said Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) spokeswoman Lori Ross.

"We are definitely encouraged by the current and predicated weather pattern," she told the Los Angeles Times, after the the National Weather Service lifted its red-flag warning for wildfire risk in the area late Friday.

"But we also know that can change on a dime here in Southern California."

The area on fire, which nearly tripled to 28,000 acres (11,300 hectares) Friday, stayed steady while firefighters said they had contained 30 percent of the blaze, up from 20 percent overnight.

"We took advantage of the weather last night, and we really made a big push... to where we can get this thing buttoned up," another VCFD spokesman, Mike Lindbery, told KTLA 5 television.

California regularly battles multiple wildfires later in the year, but strong winds and temperatures in the 90s (30s Celsius) have ignited a series of brushfires this week.

The Springs fire forced the closure of an eight-mile section of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and a university campus, and ravaged a beach shooting range at the Point Magu naval base.

In addition to damaging 15 homes, it has destroyed some 25 outbuildings and damaged another 15, as well as damaged five commercial properties, according to the VCFD.

Some celebrities, including actors Jamie Foxx and Tom Selleck, live near the evacuation area, according to KTLA 5. Many of the homes were luxury ranches that had stables of horses and other animals.

The Pacific Ocean-front freeway, a scenic route used by tourists and others driving up California's coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco, was reopened.

Just under 1,900 firefighters -- including from Los Angeles and other neighboring areas -- have battled the wind-fanned flames, helped by 247 fire engines, six air tankers and 11 helicopters.

There have been no casualties directly related to the blaze, although a firefighter and a civilian were injured in a traffic accident away from the fire, said the VCFD.

California State University at Channel Islands remained closed after canceling all classes and activities at its Camarillo site Thursday and Friday. The university said on its website it hoped to re-open on Sunday.

Wildfires are common across the western United States in the summer, and in Southern California, they are often fanned by strong offshore Santa Ana winds later in the year, in the fall or winter.

Another blaze erupted Friday in Glendale, a residential suburb just 10 miles north of Los Angeles, burning about 75 acres of brush and forcing some local evacuations and the closure a nearby freeway.