Crews scram­ble to keep fire from reach­ing homes

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­cio Sanchez and Amanda Lee My­ers

Fire­fight­ers worked to keep a grow­ing for­est fire from reach­ing foothill neigh­bor­hoods.

Fire­fight­ers worked Friday to keep a grow­ing South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for­est fire that is feed­ing on dry brush and trees from reach­ing foothill neigh­bor­hoods a day af­ter flames roared to new fe­roc­ity and came within yards of homes.

Gov. Jerry Brown de­clared a state of emer­gency for Or­ange and River­side coun­ties as the fire carved its way along ridges in the Cleve­land Na­tional For­est.

Some hill­sides were al­lowed to burn un­der the watch­ful eyes of fire­fight­ers as a way to re­duce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into com­mu­ni­ties if winds pick up again.

Air­craft dropped liq­uid that sup­presses flames as peo­ple sprayed their houses with wa­ter from gar­den hoses when the blaze south of Los An­ge­les flared again Thurs­day evening, pro­pelled by 20-mph .

Shannon Hicks, 59, de­fied an evac­u­a­tion or­der and watched in awe as fire­fight­ers faced down a storm of flames that de­scended to­ward her street in the city of Lake Elsi­nore.

“It looked like a tor­nado. The flames were just twirling and twirling,” she said. “I thought, there’s no way they’re sav­ing my house. But some­how they did.”

Hun­dreds more fire­fight­ers joined the bat­tle, bring­ing the to­tal to 1,200.

The so-called Holy Fire has chewed through 28 square miles of dense cha­parral and is only par­tially con­tained.

It’s one of nearly 20 blazes across the state, which is see­ing ear­lier, longer and more de­struc­tive wild­fire sea­sons be­cause of drought, warmer weather at­trib­uted to cli­mate change and home con­struc­tion deeper into forests.

Fire­fight­ers aided by cooler weather have made good progress against a blaze burn­ing for nearly a month near Yosemite Na­tional Park in the north­ern part of the state.

The park was set to re­open Tues­day af­ter a twoweek clo­sure, park spokesman Scott Ged­i­man said Friday.

Vis­i­tors should ex­pect lim­ited hours and vis­i­tor ser­vices next week as the park re­turns to nor­mal, he said. The blaze didn’t reach the heart of the park and in­stead burned in re­mote ar­eas, mak­ing roads in­ac­ces­si­ble and pol­lut­ing the area with smoke.

The clo­sure dealt a fi­nan­cial blow to Yosemite at the height of the sum­mer sea­son and caused up­heaval for thou­sands of tourists whose sum­mer trips were can­celed.

Of­fi­cials also gained more con­trol over two other ma­jor North­ern Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires, in­clud­ing the largest in recorded state history.

In the south, Cleve­land Na­tional For­est of­fi­cials tweeted that the flames out­side Los An­ge­les were grow­ing as fast as crews can build lines to con­tain them.

“We con­tinue to ac­tively en­gage, but can­not get ahead of the fire,” the state­ment said.

Tere­sita Reyes was among some 20,000 peo­ple forced to evac­u­ate, say­ing she was at­tend­ing a wed­ding Wed­nes­day when she re­ceived the or­der. The 51-year-old state health in­spec­tor con­grat­u­lated the cou­ple and left qui­etly for her house in the city of Lake Elsi­nore to grab im­por­tant doc­u­ments.

Since then, Reyes and her hus­band have been stay­ing at a ho­tel with a faulty air con­di­tioner while their three dogs and cat are holed up at the fam­ily’s plumb­ing busi­ness.

“It is nerve-wrack­ing and un­real,” she said. “We were on pins and nee­dles for a lit­tle while there be­cause it got real close.”

The fire was de­lib­er­ately set.

A res­i­dent of the small com­mu­nity of Holy Jim Canyon in the na­tional for­est has been charged with ar­son and other crimes and ap­peared in a jailhouse court­room Friday.

PA­TRICK RECORD — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

King Bass, 6, left, sits and watches the Holy Fire burn from on top of his par­ents’ car as his sis­ter Princess, 5, rests her head on his shoul­der Thurs­day night in Lake Elsi­nore, Calif.

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