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Winds Fan Brush Fires Across Southland

September 25, 1997| From Associated Press

BANNING — Work crews worried about wind from a fresh storm Wednesday as they cleaned up the latest round of brush fires, the biggest a 1,500-acre blaze that destroyed several mobile homes near this city.

A fast-moving brush fire not far from Escondido in San Diego County fueled by erratic winds burned at least one structure and forced people to evacuate their homes Wednesday as it scorched more than 1,000 acres, fire officials said.

The fire erupted just before 1 p.m. and began burning the dry, sparsely populated hillsides. At least 8,000 county residents, mostly in the northeast, lost power because of the heavy winds.

The 450 firefighters at the scene had contained 30% of the blaze by 5 p.m. They expected to have it fully contained by 6 a.m. today.

"That's if the humidity continues to go up," said Audrey Hagen, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

The cause of the fire was not known.

Around Southern California, a dozen firefighters reported minor injuries, from scrapes to bee stings. The most serious was a broken arm and possible broken ribs suffered by a firefighter working near the San Bernardino County community of City Creek.

Six to eight unoccupied mobile homes were burned Tuesday near Banning in a blaze that was half surrounded by fire lines Wednesday afternoon, said Iral Evans, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry.

"Winds are blowing up there in that area a little bit," he said, but authorities hoped to have the fire fully contained Wednesday night.

California 243, which runs between Banning and Idyllwild, reopened Wednesday, Evans said, adding that the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

The City Creek fire was 90% surrounded, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner. The 425-acre blaze was set Monday, officials said. Nearby California 330 was reopened Wednesday.

A 150-acre fire northwest of Lake Hemet was 85% contained, Lardner said, adding that the effort was aided by heavy rain earlier in the evening. The fire endangered no human dwellings, but did threaten some spotted owl habitat, she said.

California 74 between Mountain Center and Lake Hemet was open to residents only.

In Yucaipa, a barn and shed were destroyed by a 940-acre brush fire sparked by a downed power line. Crews had it contained and were mopping up Wednesday.

"Basically it's a done deal, but you just want to make sure all the hot spots are out and everything is clear," said Forestry Department spokesman Bill Peters.

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