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One fire flares up while another breaks out

The Zaca blaze becomes active again. And north of Murrieta, homes are threatened briefly.

July 30, 2007|Ari B. Bloomekatz and Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writers

A fire east of Santa Barbara County's wine country that had been largely contained flared up again over the weekend, burning about 2,100 acres Sunday, while a new brush fire broke out in Riverside County.

Fueled by warm and extremely dry conditions and outflanking fire lines on its uncontained southeast side, the Zaca fire, in Los Padres National Forest, became active again Saturday and by Sunday had begun to spread.

Authorities evacuated about a dozen weekend cabins in Peachtree Canyon on Sunday, said Joe Pasinato, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. The fire, which started July 4, has burned 33,500 acres and is 70% contained.

But authorities said Sunday that they did not anticipate containment until Sept. 7 -- more than a month later than they had expected.

Meanwhile, more than 200 firefighters battled a blaze that had consumed about 120 acres in Menifee, a portion of unincorporated Riverside County just north of Murrieta.

Voluntary evacuations were temporarily in effect, and four air tankers and two helicopters dropped water and fire retardant on the brush nearby. Two houses sustained minor smoke damage, and two firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

That fire, which broke out just before 2 p.m., briefly threatened between 20 and 50 homes but was thwarted by an aggressive air assault, coupled with fire lines cut into the hillside.

As of 8 p.m., the Menifee blaze was 70% contained. Riverside County Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera said he expected it to be contained by early this morning.

Herrera said authorities believed the fire was sparked by someone shooting a firearm recreationally in the dry brush. He said that anyone with information about the blaze should call the arson hotline at (800) 633-2836.

Menifee resident Liz Gillette was outside watering plants at her home on Buckwheat Road when she spotted the fire soon after it broke out.

She said she ran to call 911 and neighbors before packing her minivan with family photos. "I did not think I was coming home tonight," she said.

Five hours later, Gillette returned to find her 2 1/2 -acre property singed at the edges but her house intact.

The white oleander bushes in the front of the house were burned, and firefighters continued to stand guard in the neighborhood.

As firetrucks moved up the unpaved road, Gillette called out to the firefighters inside: "Thank you so much for saving my house."

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