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Up to 4 Lightning-Caused Fires Threaten Buildings on Catalina

Military hovercraft are used to take firefighters, equipment to the island. About 70 acres burn.

July 23, 2006|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

Ignited by lightning, as many as four fires blazed Saturday night on Santa Catalina Island, threatening 10 buildings, Los Angeles County fire officials said.

At least 20 fire engines and more than 100 firefighters were being taken to the island overnight on military hovercraft.

Sixty to 70 acres had burned shortly before 10 p.m., said Cheryl Sims, supervising dispatcher for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. One of the fires was burning about five miles south of the Catalina airport, said Fire Inspector Scott Ross.

Firefighters also were being deployed overnight from Marina del Rey and Redondo Beach on two department lifeguard boats. The hovercraft, based at Camp Pendleton, were needed to transport firefighters and equipment.

Lightning strikes began just after 8 p.m., affecting the area just below the Catalina Airport, known as Empire Landings and Big Springs.

Lucas Stanczak, a bartender at Flip's Saltwater Bar & Grill, said patrons gathered outside the bar to watch the lightning storm.

"The power flashed out for half a second ... but it went right back on," Stanczak said before rushing back to tend to a full crowd at the bar.

Fire officials planned to rely on the hovercraft because helicopters cannot fly safely through lightning, Sims said.

Firefighters also battled a 447-acre blaze Saturday in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, clogging traffic on Interstate 15.

The fire, which caused the evacuation of two ranches and burned several uninhabited structures, started about 11:30 a.m. Saturday near a truck ramp on Interstate 15, said Robin Prince, a spokeswoman for San Bernardino National Forest.

The fire, which burned more than two-thirds of a square mile, was 50% contained.

Meanwhile, fire crews overcame steep terrain and erratic winds in the Mojave Desert to fully contain a small blaze that was sparked by lightning.

Times staff writers and wire reports contributed to this article.

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