Southern California Wildfire Slows; Northern Wine Country Blaze Surrounded

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (AP) -- About 600 residents returned to their homes as firefighters gained on a wildfire ignited by a car crash, but unsettled weather had officials worried that lightning could spark another blaze.

The 1,000-acre Runway fire at the northern edge of the San Bernardino National Forest was 65 percent contained by late Wednesday, forest spokeswoman Melody Lardner said.

Nearly 900 firefighters and 11 air tankers and helicopters fought flames west of Interstate 15 at the north edge of the forest.

Even as moist air aided the battle, firefighters were cautious of possible thunderstorms forecast for Thursday.

``Especially over here, where we didn't get any rain today, fuels are just as dry, and any dry lightning could ignite another fire and then we'd be starting all over again,'' fire incident commander Mark Walker told KNBC-TV.

There were no reports of injuries. No homes burned but forest spokeswoman Pam Bierce said one residence in the Baldy Mesa area had heat damage, such as melting paint or warping.

About 500 people were ordered out of their homes in the West Cajon Valley hours after the fire started Tuesday afternoon, and 100 more were later evacuated from the Phelan area southwest of Victorville, Lardner said.

An approximately seven-mile stretch of Highway 138 was expected to reopen Thursday morning.

To the west, Los Angeles County has beefed up its fire readiness by deploying 13 additional crews, nine water trucks and two helicopter fuel trucks to several stations. Volunteers were also walking the beat on arson patrols across several of the county's bone-dry valleys.

In northern California, firefighters mopped up a 12,500-acre blaze that scorched a five-mile-long swath on the edge of wine country in Sonoma and Lake counties. Officials lifted an evacuation order and the fire was fully contained Wednesday night.

The cause of the Geysers fire, which began Friday, was under investigation.

Another fire in an unincorporated part of Marin County north of San Francisco had burned 360 acres of land. The fire was 60 percent contained Wednesday night and no buildings were threatened, authorities said.

The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported this week that 6,012 fires had claimed 172,222 wildland acres across the state since the beginning of the year. During the same period last year, 4,745 fires burned 64,244 acres.

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