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5,100 Acres Burned by Fires

June 03, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES and RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Fueled by steady winds and thick brush, a wildfire continued to burn out of control on the steep hillsides north of Ojai on Sunday, charring more than 2,500 acres and destroying several abandoned buildings, including three old cabins, a garage and a shed, before continuing east across rugged terrain.

By late Sunday afternoon, the fire had blackened a wide swath of rolling hills and steep canyons on both sides of California 33 about 12 miles north of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest, said Kathy Good, a U.S. Department of Forestry spokeswoman. The blaze was only 5% contained by late Sunday.

Good said that the cause remained unknown Sunday but that the blaze was ignited at the Pine Mountain Inn off the state highway about 3 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, a wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest was 60% contained on Sunday but had grown slightly to 2,650 acres.

More than 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze are expected to have it fully contained by 6 p.m. Friday, officials said.

In the Los Padres National Forest, officials said, warm weather and gusting winds gave the wildfire new strength throughout the day.

Two campgrounds near the fire were evacuated Saturday, and authorities asked campers and hikers in the popular Rose Valley recreation area east of the blaze to leave the area Sunday.

More than 914 firefighters battled the fire on the ground and in the sky Sunday, Good said. Five air tankers and three helicopters were dropping water and chemicals on the blaze, which burned through an area that has been untouched by brush fires for nearly 70 years, officials said.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, the Ventura County Fire Department and the state Department of Forestry were called in to fight the fire.

Temperatures climbed into the mid-80s and a steady 20 mph wind fanned flames and carried hot embers that ignited additional fires.

One of those set an abandoned wood garage on Felt Ranch ablaze about noon Sunday, Good said. The structure, one of five on the property, quickly burned to the ground, she said.

The fire in the San Bernardino National Forest is about a mile south of California 18. One firefighter injured a knee and two others suffered heat exhaustion.

The blaze singed the Arrowhead Springs resort, a 1930s hotel now used by a theology school. Flames damaged five outbuildings.

The blaze broke out Friday after the state forestry department conducted a firefighter training burn.

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