California fire residents return

California fire residents return

25 November 2007

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California, USA — Up to 10,000 residents who were forced from their homes by wildfires in California are being allowed to return to their properties.

The fires had been pushing through canyons and mountains around Malibu, but more than a quarter have now been contained by firefighters.

The flames have destroyed 2,500 acres of land and about 35 homes.

Investigators say either arson or a fallen power line could be to blame for the outbreaks.

Firefighters are still battling flames but dry winds have subsided.

Last month wildfires in California killed at least 14 people and forced 640,000 from their homes.

A total of 1,700 firefighters have been deployed to tackle the blaze, said Inspector Rick Dominguez of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Strong winds

Santa Ana winds of up to 40mph (64km/h) helped spread the fire, which started at around 0330 local time (1130 GMT) on Saturday between Mesa Peak Mountain Way and Corral Canyon.

“Waking up at 4 in the morning with the smell of smoke in your nose and the wind beating at the windows is something that we learn to live with here, but it always comes as something of a shock,” Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Winds had dropped somewhat by middle of the day but officials said the fire would “remain active through the night”.

“There’s still a lot of open, active fire and there’s still a lot of potential for flare-ups,” Inspector Ron Haralson told the BBC.

Helicopters and aeroplanes were dropping water on the fire in efforts to bring it under control.

Fires that raged across southern California last month caused the biggest mass evacuation in the state’s recent history and extensive environmental damage.

Arsonists were thought to be responsible for starting at least two of those fires.

The cost of the damage in San Diego county alone was estimated at about $1bn (£487m).

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