Thunderstorms Provide Some Relief To California Wildfires

LAKE HUGHES, Calif. (AP) -- Thunderstorms provided some relief in Southern California for firefighters, but wildfires throughout the state continued to force evacuations as they charred more than 21,000 acres of brush and forest.

A monsoonal flow from the southeast brought heavy rain to the southern flank of a 3,690-acre blaze on the edge of San Bernardino National Forest, said Randy Nugent, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry.

The wildfire was 70 percent contained late Wednesday night as it burned toward unpopulated terrain.

The thunderstorms, however, did not reach into northern Los Angeles County, where a fire in Pine Canyon, west of Lake Hughes in the Angeles National Forest, had grown to well over 7,000 acres by early Thursday and was less than half contained, said Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Whaling. Flames forced the evacuation Wednesday of another 80 homes. About 500 homes were evacuated Tuesday.

``The fire has been unpredictable, but now firefighters are trying to make a stand at Highway 138 - just north of the fire - to attempt to cut it off there,'' said Los Angeles County fire Inspector John Mancha. More than 1,000 firefighters were on the line.

But Linda Martin, who owns a convenience store about nine miles from the fire in Lake Hughes, said she has no plans to evacuate. Her business is an unofficial information center during wildfires, telling residents which areas are affected and which roads are closed.

``The minute a plume of smoke starts anywhere in the area, that's when we start getting the phone calls,'' Martin said. ``This is a pretty close community. Information travels very quickly, and if there's someone in distress or need, everyone's there.''

In eastern San Diego County, an 8,649-acre blaze sparked by illegal fireworks was 75 percent contained late Wednesday night and was expected to be fully surrounded by Thursday evening. Some 1,200 firefighters battled the flames, which started as two fires Tuesday near Lake Henshaw.

The so-called Mataguay Fire prompted evacuation of about 100 rural homes and about 200 youngsters from a Boy Scout camp Tuesday, but structures or communities were no longer threatened, said California Department of Forestry Firefighter Tyler Ashton.

``It's pretty much burning in open vegetation,'' he said.

Two outbuildings were destroyed and four firefighters were treated for minor injuries, he said.

In Kern County, a fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon burned 625 acres and also destroyed a 1,500-square-foot house and a motorhome, said county fire Capt. Doug Johnston.

The fire was 50 percent contained Wednesday night and authorities expected to have it contained by early Thursday.

About 150 firefighters were assigned to the fire and four other homes in the canyon were saved and suffered little or no damage.

In the Sierra, hikers were evacuated and trails were closed in part of Yosemite National Park after a lightning-sparked wildfire grew to 1,300 acres Tuesday. The Meadow Fire was one of nine fires burning in the park from lightning strikes two weeks ago, officials with the National Park Service said.

A small brush fire also broke out in Griffith Park on Wednesday afternoon and burned about 12 acres near the Los Angeles Zoo. Authorities evacuated a Boy Scout camp in the park. The same camp was cleared Monday of 90 scouts when another four-acre fire broke out.

Firefighters on Wednesday also contained two other fires in Riverside County near Lake Elsinore that burned about 500 acres. Three firefighters suffered heat-related injuries battling one blaze that was caused by a discarded cigarette.

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