Fire burns 750 acres near Los Angeles

October 12, 2008 6:16:52 PM PDT
Firefighters backed by water-dumping helicopters and planes gained ground Sunday on a wildfire that destroyed two homes and forced the evacuation of about 1,200 people in a rugged area 20 miles north of downtown. The blaze charred up to 750 acres and also burned a garage, several sheds and three motor homes, said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Ron Haralson. No one was seriously injured, but a firefighter and one resident reported minor breathing problems.

Haralson said firefighters are "getting a really good handle" on the blaze, which started early Sunday. But powerful Santa Ana winds were expected to arrive in the evening, and gusts could spread embers igniting brush, grass and chaparral in the area.

About 450 homes were evacuated early Sunday when the blaze moved southeast toward city limits, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

"It burned right down to a couple of neighborhoods," Florea said.

The fire was 20 percent contained and as it burned south of the Wildlife Waystation, an animal sanctuary and rehabilitation facility set on 160 acres. The nonprofit agency houses more than 400 animals, including lions, bears and deer. Officials were loading up the animals in case the fire switched direction.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Elsewhere in California, firefighters halted the spread of a wildfire that burned about 300 acres of heavy brush, destroyed a home and threatened several wineries in Napa Valley.

More than 1,500 firefighters were called in to work the blaze, which state fire officials said was fully contained by Sunday morning.

Investigators said Saturday a rock struck by a car ignited the wildfire Friday afternoon. Strong winds in the hills near the wine country town of St. Helena caused the fire to spread quickly.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said all evacuation orders had been lifted, allowing 100 people to return home after the flames forced them to flee.

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