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3 brush fires burn hundreds of acres

35 homes are evacuated near the Pala reservation in San Diego County. A fire near Ramona is contained after burning 75 acres. Riverside County's 455-acre Keller fire damages four buildings.

August 30, 2011|By Tony Perry and Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times

Brush fires broke out in three Southern California counties Monday, scorching hundreds of acres, forcing the evacuation of several dozen homes and threatening other structures.

A blaze near the Pala American Indian reservation in northern San Diego County had burned more than 300 acres. Thirty-five homes were under evacuation orders and 605 firefighters were on the fire line, officials said Monday night.

Meanwhile, two other fires in the region were contained as crews worked in triple-digit temperatures to beat back flames.

A fire in Wildcat Canyon near Ramona in San Diego County burned 75 acres before it was contained Monday night, officials said. A firefighter suffered a heat-related injury battling the blaze.

In Riverside County, the 455-acre Keller fire north of Murrieta damaged two homes and two outbuildings before it was contained.

The Pala fire started about 10:30 a.m. when a Toyota Camry crashed into a light pole on Pala-Temecula Road, sending sparks into dry grass, officials said. By nightfall, residents along Rancho Heights Road had been ordered to evacuate and relocate to the Pala Tribal Administrative Center gymnasium, where the Red Cross was providing assistance, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire was moving northeast Monday night and was 40% contained, officials said. There were no reports of structures damaged, but 35 homes and five outbuildings were threatened by flames.

A wildfire that started Saturday and burned 345 acres near the Los Angeles County-San Bernardino County line flared up Monday evening after it had been 85% contained. Officials were forced to close a segment of Highway 138, fire officials said.

The blaze originally began along the highway south of Pinon Hills on Saturday after a series of lightning strikes from thunderstorms hit the desert areas, although the official cause has not been determined.

The flare-up began after a spot fire broke out across the containment lines, said a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Still, the blaze was enough under control for officials to redeploy some resources to the other fires in the region.

In Northern California, a main road to Yosemite that has been closed since last week by a large wildfire was expected to reopen Tuesday, officials said.

California 140 was expected to reopen at 6 a.m. because fire crews had made progress on the fire, the U.S. Forest Service said. The highway had been closed since Thursday afternoon from about four miles east of Midpines to about four miles west of the park boundary.

Officials also were planning to lift an evacuation order Monday night that had affected about 300 people, most of them park service and concession employees, in the El Portal, Rancheria, Cedar Creek Lodge and Merced River campgrounds.

The blaze, known as the Motor fire, began along the Merced River on Thursday afternoon and had scorched about 5,230 acres of pine and brush by Monday evening, officials said. The blaze was 50% contained.

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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