Southern California Wildfire Forces Evacuation

September 21, 2009

Firefighters quickly stopped the spread of a wildfire that broke out in Riverside County on Saturday, but not before it destroyed 12 structures and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes.

The fire that broke out shortly before 4 p.m. in the Cleveland National Forest east of Temecula burned more than 300 acres of brush and 12 buildings, but fire officials could not immediately confirm whether they were homes, county fire Captain Fernando Herrera said.

One resident suffered minor smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene, Herrera said.

About 250 firefighters helped by a series of successful water drops from aircraft had the fire 50 percent contained Saturday night, and officials expected to have it surrounded by Sunday morning, Herrera said.

The evacuated homes were along Highway 79, and an evacuation center was opened at Great Oak High School in Temecula.

Meanwhile Saturday, as temperatures rose and winds picked up in Southern California, officials decided to have air crews again drop flame retardant on sections of a massive wildfire that had burned for 24 days north of Los Angeles.

U.S. Forest Spokesman Stanley Bercovitz said officials decided to take preventative measures against smoldering areas near Mount Wilson in the Angeles National Forest.

Trucks will spray retardant beginning Sunday morning on the north slope of the peak, which houses telecommunications facilities and an historic observatory.

Triple-digit temperatures and wind gusts of up to 45 mph are predicted in the Los Angeles area early next week.

The fire, which was sparked by arson on Aug. 26, was 93 percent contained. It had scorched nearly 281 square miles and led to the deaths of two firefighters.

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