Fire Officials Concerned About Return of Santa Ana Winds

Fire Officials Concerned About Return of Santa Ana Winds

3 October 2005

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Fire crews are close to containment of the stubborn Topanga Fire, which has burned along the Los Angeles-Ventura county line since Wednesday. However, there’s little cause forcelebration.

Officials are concerned that a forecast return of the hot and dry Santa Ana winds on Monday could once again send flames from the Topanga Fire and blazes burning near Burbank and in the San Bernardino National Forest rushing across brush-covered hills.

After it charred 24,175 acres, fire crews have the Topanga Fire 85 percent contained. Officials are optimistic they will have the blaze fully encircled by Monday evening, provided the winds stay at moderate speeds.

The smaller Burbank Fire has burned 1,045 acres in rough terrain in the Verdugo Mountains about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The blaze has prompted the evacuation of the residents of about 70 homes in the area. The fire is currently 67 percent contained.

A 935-acre blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest about 70 miles east of Los Angeles is 60 percent surrounded.

Normally, containment figures of more than 60 percent are a signal that the end is in site for a wildland fire. However, the possibility of winds blowing at up to 50 miles per hour has put a damper on any celebrating.

Fire officials are well aware of what can happen when high winds, dry brush and fire are combined. That was graphically illustrated in October 2003, when a series of wind-driven blazes blackened more than 200,000 acres in Southern California.

Thus far, the Topanga Fire is the only one of the three blazes to claim any structures. It has burned three homes, three commercial properties, and seven outbuildings. With more than 3,000 firefighters battling the blaze at one point, the fire has cost more than $8.2 million to fight.

At its height, the Topanga Fire prompted widespread evacuations as it burned perilously near the communities of Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Agoura and Calabasas. Officials have now lifted all evacuation orders.


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