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Brush Fire Nears 30 Homes in O.C. Hills

November 21, 2002|David Haldane and Claire Luna | Times Staff Writers

A fast-moving, erratic brush fire, fueled by hot, dry weather and driven by gusty winds, was threatening as many as 30 hillside homes in Yorba Linda late Wednesday.

"It looks like it's moving at a pretty good clip," said Dennis Shell, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority, which by 10 p.m. had more than 100 firefighters on scene, along with strike teams from Los Angeles County.

One firefighter -- a woman working as part of a reserve crew cutting brush by hand on a hillside -- had to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment of "medical complications, possibly overexertion or dehydration," said Capt. Steve Miller of the fire authority. Her condition was stable, he said.

According to Shell, the fire started about 7:30 p.m. on Yorba Linda's Blue Gum Drive near Chino Hills State Park.

"We've got fire investigators on scene right now [to determine the cause]," he said.

Fanned by gusty winds of 25 to 35 mph and fueled by temperatures of more than 80 degrees, the fire spread quickly west through about 50 acres of waist-high brush and "flashy, grassy fuels," Shell said.

Though moving generally away from populated areas, the 25- to 30-foot flames at times came to within a few hundred yards of some homes as the wind shifted.

"With these gusty winds it's very erratic and unpredictable," Shell said. By 10 p.m., the fire was about 40% contained.

"If the winds give us a break I think we're OK," he said.

"We're making some good headway -- it's starting to look like [conditions] are becoming favorable."

He said dozens of firefighters were deployed in residential areas with hoses at the ready. "They're talking to residents, keeping them calm and prepared to immediately put down any flare-ups," he said.

Those efforts were aided, Shell said, by the residents, who seemed well-prepared for the annual fire season, which has been prolonged this year by drought-like conditions.

"The community has done an excellent job of brush clearance and has some excellent greenbelts around their homes," he said. "From what we can see, there are many noncombustible roofs in the area, which is a good help."

Some power lines were reported down, Shell said, possibly causing interruptions in service.

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