Cooler Weather Helps California Firefighters

Cooler Weather Helps California Firefighters

(published by Planet Ark, 06 May 2004)

LOS ANGELES – Cooler, less breezy weather helped firefighters battling six wildfires in southern California on Wednesday but more than 1,000 homes were at risk in an early start to the fire season.

“It is cooler today than earlier in the week and the winds appear to be calm,” said Ron Gill, spokesman for Riverside County Fire Department where some 2,000 firefighters are struggling to contain the two biggest blazes in mountain communities south-east of Los Angeles.

Fanned by record-breaking temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a sixth successive year of drought, the six fires have scorched more than 20,000 acres in the past four days.

Sixteen homes have been destroyed and families were ordered out of another 1,000 homes in the Cerritos fire near Corona on Tuesday. The blaze was only 30 percent contained on Wednesday.

But fire officials made headway against an 8,800-acre blaze near Temecula which was 60 percent contained on Wednesday. “There are not so many structures in that area so we made real good progress with fire operations rather than focusing on protecting property,” Gill said.

A smaller brush fire on the U.S. Marine base Camp Pendleton north of San Diego was reported fully contained on Wednesday. No structures were burned and no injuries reported.

Hot and dry conditions last year touched off 14 major wildfires in Southern California’s mountain ranges, killing 24 people, destroying more than 3,700 homes and charring about 750,000 acres.

Fire officials said only a fraction of the dead trees that fueled last year’s firestorms had been consumed, leaving plenty of dry tinder for new fires.

The Cerritos fire is thought to have been started by a man seen dragging a large piece of steel behind a vehicle that sent sparks into nearby dry brush. The man has been arrested.

Meanwhile in Arizona, a controlled burn near the south rim of the Grand Canyon jumped fire lines and spread, charring 100 acres and throwing heavy smoke into the air during a busy time for tourists visiting the national park.

The fire burned through ponderosa pine, briefly closing two entrances to the canyon and prompting voluntary evacuations of a portion of Grand Canyon Village as about 80 firefighters fought to bring the blaze under control. 


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