Catalina Island Fire Fully Contained

AVALON, Calif. --

The Santa Catalina Island was fully contained Tuesday and, by all appearances, appears to be out after scorching 4,750 acres of brush, authorities said today.

"The fire is definitely knocked down," said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Ron Haralson.

But even though no flames are visible, crews will remain on the island Tuesday to make sure that any smoldering spots do not flare up, he said, adding that he expects the firefighters and equipment sent to Santa Catalina after the fire broke out to be brought back to the mainland tomorrow.

Still on the island today were 271 firefighters, 14 engines and 14 camp crews, officials said. The number of firefighters battling the blaze reached some 700 after it broke out.

Officials with the Catalina Island Conservancy, which controls the vast majority of the island, are working to assess any environmental damage from the fire.

Electricity was restored to Avalon residents by 7 last night, and a 1- million watt high-voltage generator will be shipped to the island today to provide electricity to most of the island's interior, where the fire did the most damage, and to Two Harbors, on the other side of the island as Avalon, Santa Catalina's main town, said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander.

Natural gas service was restored to all of 200 customers who had their service interrupted as of 5 p.m. yesterday, with the exception of 15 unoccupied homes, he said.

Fourteen firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze, which destroyed one home and five other structures, including barns and sheds. Four other structures were damaged by the fire.

Residents were allowed to return to Avalon over the weekend, and tourists followed suit starting yesterday, when Catalina Express resumed its regular ferry service from San Pedro and Long Beach.

Avalon, home to about 3,400 full-time residents, can swell to about 10,000 residents during its summer peak season, and businesses that rely on tourists reportedly lost $500,000 a day as a result of the blaze.

The fire broke out about 12:30 p.m. Thursday in rugged terrain about 4 miles west of Avalon and burned up to the outskirts of Avalon before the wind shifted and blew the blaze back into the interior of the island, fire officials said.

The fire is believed to have been accidentally started by a repair crew using a circular saw at radio station KBRT's Catalina transmitter towers, said Avalon Fire Department Chief Steven Hoefs. KBRT, whose studios are in Costa Mesa, stopped transmitting paid-religious programming as a result of the fire.

As of yesterday, Los Angeles County had spent $4.4 million to fight the fire, fire officials said. That sum does not include the expense of the five U.S. Navy hovercraft pressed into service to bring fire engines from the mainland, or the Catalina Express boats that ferried firefighters to the island and evacuated residents and tourists to the mainland.

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