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Fires force evacuations amid California heat wave

May 13, 2014
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of hundreds of others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to the parched state.

The biggest fire broke out in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego and rapidly moved westward through canyons surrounding islands of modern housing tracts. It quickly grew to 400 acres.

Several neighborhoods were evacuated as a precaution, San Diego fire spokesman Lee Swanson said.

At least two high schools and one elementary school also were evacuated, police Detective Gary Hassen said.

Some land had been cleared for future development and that helped slow the fire's pace, despite gusting winds, authorities said.

About 100 firefighters battled the blaze, along with aircraft that dumped water and retardant.

Another fire destroyed a mobile home and prompted the evacuation of five homes in the rural town of Campo in southern San Diego County before it was largely surrounded, state fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said.

North of Los Angeles, a wildfire erupted Tuesday afternoon in Santa Barbara County was quickly wind-whipped to 150 acres and it threatened 150 to 200 homes in the town of Lompoc, authorities said. Evacuations were ordered.

There were downed power lines and heavy brush in the area, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

A half-dozen other blazes statewide all remained small, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Record high temperatures were likely through midweek from Southern California north to the regions around Monterey and San Francisco bays, the National Weather Service said. Downtown Los Angeles was 92 degrees at noon, 18 degrees above normal.

With the combination of high heat, low relative humidity and the region's notoriously gusty Santa Ana winds, Los Angeles and neighboring cities activated parking restrictions in certain areas to make sure emergency vehicles could get through if fires erupted in dry brush.

Months of drought have left much of the landscape ready to burn. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded just 6.08 inches of precipitation with little time left in the July 1-June 30 rain year. That's less than half its annual average rainfall.

"Fire season last year never really ended in Southern California," Berlant said. His agency has responded to more than 1,350 fires since Jan. 1, compared to an average of 700 by this time of year.



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