San Francisco Chronicle

Weather aids Southern California firefighte­rs.


LOS ANGELES — Cooler, more humid weather gave at least some temporary help Wednesday to crews battling dangerous wildfires in Southern California, while other blazes across the West were on the move.

Improved weather in the aftermath of a severe heat wave allowed firefighte­rs to make progress against two fires in the steep San Gabriel Mountains 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Some evacuation­s below in the foothill city of Duarte were lifted, but the calm was not expected to last.

“We will have stronger winds, so it could push the fire,” incident commander Mike Wakoski said.

Despite fears that stronger winds could make the fire resurgent and challenges of tough terrain, containmen­t was expanded from 10 to 15 percent by Wednesday evening.

A fleet of helicopter­s and air tankers and other resources are helping fight the fires totaling about 7½ square miles.

“They’re starting to make good progress, but there’s a lot of line to put in, and it’s in a real inaccessib­le area,” Wakoski said. “It’s very hard for the firefighte­rs to engage the fire safely, but they are out there doing so.”

No homes have been lost, though flames have come close at times. More than 850 homes were ordered evacuated earlier this week, and 534 were cleared for residents’ return Wednesday.

Near the Mexican border, two residences and 11 outbuildin­gs burned in a wildfire about 40 miles southeast of San Diego. A thousand structures were threatened by the blaze, which grew to just over 10 square miles and was only partially contained.

Falling temperatur­es, rising humidity and cloud cover has helped, said Capt. Kendal Bortisser of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. But firefighte­rs still must deal with rough terrain and vegetation that has not burned in decades, he said.

Weather also helped on the rugged coast west of Santa Barbara. Fog moved into the area scorched by a blaze that began more than a week ago, and most mandatory evacuation­s were called off. With the more than 12-square-mile fire almost fully surrounded, firefighte­rs shifted focus to battling hot spots within containmen­t lines.

Resources were moving from that blaze to those in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Elsewhere in the West, a forest fire near the ColoradoWy­oming line exploded in size and forced campers to evacuate.

A shift in the wind turned a blaze burning slowly in a heavily wooded area with no permanent residents into a fast-moving threat, growing from 1 square mile to about 5. Trees killed by a beetle infestatio­n were fueling the flames 140 miles north of Denver and 2 miles from Wyoming.

No more than 100 campers and people staying in cabins fled, Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos said. More firefighte­rs were expected, but getting more help was difficult because of the other Western blazes.

 ?? Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press ?? A helicopter makes a water drop on a hill near a wildfire in Duarte (Los Angeles County), where some evacuation­s were lifted.
Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press A helicopter makes a water drop on a hill near a wildfire in Duarte (Los Angeles County), where some evacuation­s were lifted.

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