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California firefighters battle rising winds, 3,000-acre wildfire

2:23 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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(NBC NEWS) -- Hundreds of firefighters battled a wind-lashed 3,000-acre wildfire in California on Thursday that has already consumed one home and forced evacuations in mostly undeveloped sections of Riverside County.

A second brush-fueled fire sparked to life Thursday in Ventura County and grew to more than 2,000 acres, according to a post on the county fire department's website. The fire continued to spread, the post said. More than 200 firefighters were called to the blaze, NBC Los Angeles reported, and the Ventura Freeway was shut down as firefighters streamed into the area.

The smaller fire near the city of Camarillo, Calif., started at about 6:34 a.m. local time, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash told NBC News. Firefighters assisted by five helicopters and four air tankers struggled to reach the brush fire in the rocky terrain. No homes have been damaged, Nash said.

Residents in the Dos Vientos area were ordered to evacuate at about 9:45 a.m. local time on Thursday, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

The larger Riverside County fire, dubbed the Summit Fire, remained at about 2,950 acres early on Thursday morning after growing overnight. Firefighters worked to improve containment lines around the raging blaze that threatened homes on Wednesday. The fire was about 40 percent contained Thursday morning, according to a Riverside County Fire Department incident report.

A second firefighter sustained non-life threatening injuries overnight after another firefighter was hurt on Wednesday, according to the report. Residents in the area were asked to use caution when driving through the area and not travel down barricaded roadways.

No rain is in the forecast, and gusty winds are expected to continue through the weekend, said Weather Channel meteorologist Tom Moore. Winds of 25 to 30 miles per hour were expected throughout the day with gusts up to 60 to 70 miles per hour, Moore said.

"It's moving forward and we're trying to get ahead of it," Riverside County Fire Department Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The Summit Fire is about 85 miles east of Los Angeles.

"Today was a transition day," state fire spokesman Julie Hutchinson said on Wednesday, according to NBC Los Angeles. "Tomorrow is the big wind day."

"The grass, brush and trees are very volatile. They're ready to burn," Hutchinson said. "Everything is just very dry. And not just in Southern California. Statewide."

More than four hundred firefighters with the help of 46 engine companies, six helicopters, and six air tankers fought to contain the fire on Wednesday night. The fire had a "slow rate of spread" as of 8:50 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a fire department incident report.

The fire in Riverside County was first reported at 12:38 p.m. local time on Wednesday. About 700 people fled their homes for shelters evacuations were imposed, NBC Los Angeles reported. Evacuation orders were lifted as of 8 p.m., fire officials said.

"When the fires up here go, they go quick, and you got to save yourself. That's the first thing, preservation of yourself," Joe Kiener, a resident who lost his home, told NBC Los Angeles. "I don't think I have anything other than what's on my back."

Resident David Pena said his house nearly went up in flames until a shift in the wind.

"It was close! God's grace, man. It's a miracle," Pena told the Press-Enterprise.

Air quality regulators in the area issued a warning for the area around Banning, Calif., on Wednesday, saying that residents should "exercise caution and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in any area directly impacted by smoke."

200 families in a mobile home park were evacuated before being allowed back into their homes around 8 p.m., according to NBC Los Angeles.


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