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Orange County

50 Families Flee Fire in Holy Jim Canyon

Battle: High winds push the blaze, of unknown origin, over 100 acres in hilly terrain. One firefighter suffers minor injuries.

January 24, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At least 50 families were evacuated from their homes and mountain cabins late Wednesday as a stubborn brush fire raged over 100 acres of rugged hilly terrain at Holy Jim Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest, northeast of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Told to be prepared for evacuation were about 200 inmates of the Joplin Boy's Ranch, a county probation camp for juvenile boys, authorities said.

Kymbra Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Fire Authority, said the fire was traveling southwest.

Due to the erratic winds and the geography of the canyons, the fire was shifting back and forth and remained out of control, she said.

Because of the steep terrain, firefighters were only able to fight the blaze with hand crews.

One firefighter sustained minor injuries. His identity and the specific nature of the injuries were not released.

The fire, of unknown origin, erupted about 5:30 p.m. near Trabuco Creek Road, Fleming said.

The fire spread quickly, fueled by dry brush and gusty 30 mph winds that had been blowing most of the day. "It's steep, rugged terrain and thick brush," Fleming said, "but the wind is what's driving the fire."

An American Red Cross evacuation center was set up at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo.

They were expected to spend the night, according to Dave Romano, a Fire Authority spokesman.

The evacuations were ordered, he said, in case the fire threatened their homes.

He said the boys at the probation camp were on standby because the fire was moving in their direction.

"It's blowing pretty good out there, and the terrain is making it difficult for us to contain," he said. "It was dark when it started, and it's tough to see."

About 75 firefighters, including some from the U.S. Forest Service, were expected to battle the blaze throughout the night, Romano said.

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