Fire Threatens California Town

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Firefighters struggled in steep terrain to contain a 500-acre (200-hectare) wildfire near a small town that has survived several major blazes in recent years.

The fire near the picturesque mountain town of Julian, 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of San Diego, was about 15 percent contained late Tuesday. Four hunting cabins have been destroyed as the blaze spread quickly in the mountains north of Julian, but the wind was blowing it away from the town, said California Department of Forestry spokesman Matt Streck.

''There's obviously something special about Julian,'' Streck said. ''It's been very fortunate.''

The blaze broke out in a rugged timber area where about one-fourth of the trees are dead from drought and infested with bark beetles, Streck said.

Firefighters were using five helicopters and five air tankers and had no estimated containment time, Streck said.

The most recent threat to Julian was a 2003 blaze in the forest east of San Diego. That wildfire burned 422 square miles (1,080 square kilometers), killed 15 people, destroyed more than 2,400 homes and caused $819 million in property damage.

Also Tuesday, a 14-year-old high school student was arrested in another fire that had come within a half-mile (kilometer) of homes. The boy, whose name was withheld because of his age, was booked on a charge of arson to forest land.

The fire broke out in a canyon behind a San Diego high school on Monday and burned over 160 acres (64 hectares) before it was contained Tuesday. The blaze caused no structural damage but forced about 200 residents to evacuate.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press