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Battling fires on several fronts

In bone-dry conditions, firefighters tackle blazes from Santa Barbara to San Diego counties.

July 02, 2007|Jeffrey L. Rabin and David Pierson | Times Staff Writers

On a weekend when many people were embarking on their summer vacations, Southern California firefighters were instead battling blazes from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County -- a reminder of the region's extreme vulnerability during this historic dry spell.

The largest of the blazes, the 482-acre Rancho fire in the Los Padres National Forest northwest of Santa Barbara, started Saturday and continued to burn through steep, dry terrain Sunday. The blaze was 60% contained by early evening, said Jim Turner, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire burned northeast of San Marcos Pass in the Falls picnic area on the north side of the Santa Ynez River. No structures were damaged, and the cause is under investigation, Forest Service spokesman Ed Linquist said.

A red flag warning for high fire danger remained in effect in the area through 8 a.m. today. In Los Angeles County, a brush fire burned 50 acres along the Golden State Freeway near Pyramid Lake on Sunday before it was contained in the early evening. The blaze was ignited by an RV that caught fire and forced partial closure of the freeway and disrupted traffic for several hours, officials said.

At its peak, 300 firefighters fought the fire in dry, grassy terrain, said Stanton Florea, fire information officer for the Angeles National Forest.

In San Diego County, two fires burned near Julian. To the west, the 60-acre Deer fire was expected to be contained by midnight. To the northeast, the 110-acre Banner fire was slowing down Sunday night, giving firefighters the advantage in containing the blaze. Neither burned any structures, officials said.

Near Lake Tahoe, crews were extinguishing hot spots remaining from the Angora fire, which had charred 3,100 acres and destroyed 254 homes. The fire was expected to be fully contained by Tuesday, said South Lake Tahoe Police Lt. Martin Hale.

The fires came as Southern California ended a record-low rainfall year, deepening anxiety over what could be a disastrous fire season. Forest Service officials reminded visitors, just days before July 4, that all fireworks are prohibited on national forest land. Restrictions on campfires are also in effect because of the high fire danger.

Times staff writer Tony Perry contributed to this report.

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