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Orange County wildfire is almost fully contained

November 18, 2009|Robert J. Lopez

Fire crews nearly encircled a wildfire burning east of San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday afternoon as temperatures began to cool slightly throughout Southern California.

The blaze was 95% contained, with full containment expected today, fire officials said.

The fire had burned 145 acres of heavy brush in rugged terrain about five miles east of the 5 Freeway, authorities said. Fire officials earlier said the blaze had consumed 245 acres but downsized the acreage Tuesday after mapping the perimeter from the air.

Crews were able to take advantage of cool ocean winds and temperatures in the upper 60s, which helped slow the fire's spread, fire officials said. Relative humidity was expected to reach 45% to 50% Tuesday night, authorities said.

"That's going to help us even more," said Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority. "It will moisten things down."

He said the major flames had been extinguished by Tuesday afternoon, and crews were dousing "creeping smokes," or smoldering embers inside the fire perimeter.

About 195 firefighters, aided by a water-dropping helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft, were fighting the fire Tuesday.

At the height of the blaze Monday, about 300 firefighters and several aircraft had been assigned to the battle.

The cost of fighting the fire has reached $385,000, Concepcion said. Four firefighters were injured. One hurt his shoulder, another his knee, one his eye and another suffered heat exhaustion.

Temperatures throughout Southern California were expected to dip slightly today before the onset of dry northerly winds Thursday and warmer weather, according to the Weather Service.

A low-pressure system was forecast to descend on the region today. Temperatures are expected to reach 69 degrees in downtown Los Angeles and the low 60s in mountain communities, forecasters said.

By Thursday, northern winds will help warm up the area.

Temperatures will cool down again Friday and Saturday, with a 20% chance of rain, before warming back up Sunday and Monday, forecasters said.

"It's just going to be this flip-flopping thing," Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the Weather Service's Oxnard office, said of the changing temperatures.

--

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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