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Nation/World

May 5, 2013

Cooler weather aids fight against wildfire

CAMARILLO, Calif. — A big cool-down in weather calmed a huge wildfire burning in Southern California coastal mountains Saturday, and firefighters worked to cut miles of containment lines while conditions were favorable.

High winds and withering hot, dry air were replaced by the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.

“The fire isn’t really running and gunning,” said Tom Kruschke, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman.

The 43-square-mile blaze at the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains was 56 percent surrounded.

The humidity level rose so much that an overnight effort to burn away fuel at one section of the fire did not work well, Kruschke said.

Despite the favorable conditions, evacuation orders remained in place for residences in several areas.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters using engines, bulldozers and aircraft worked to corral the blaze.

Firefighting efforts were focused on the fire’s east side, rugged canyons that are a mix of public and private lands, Kruschke said.

The National Weather Service said an approaching low pressure system would bring a 20 percent chance of showers this afternoon, with the likelihood increasing into the night and on Monday.

“Anything we get is going to help us,” Kruschke said.

The change in the weather was also expected to bring gusty winds to some parts of Southern California, but well away from the fire area.

Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out Thursday and quickly moved through neighborhoods of Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks has caused damage to just 15 homes, though it has threatened thousands.

The fire also swept through Point Mugu State Park, a hiking and camping area that sprawls between those communities and the ocean. Park district Superintendent Craig Sap told the Ventura County Star that two old, unused ranch-style homes in the backcountry burned. Restrooms and campgrounds also were damaged. Sap estimated repairs would cost $225,000.

The only injuries as of Saturday were a civilian and a firefighter involved in a traffic accident away from the fire.

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