Fires Break Out in Five S. Calif. Areas

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Racing against the expected arrival of Santa Ana winds, firefighters battled several Southern California wildfires, including a blaze at Camp Pendleton that forced 200 residents to evacuate.

Hundreds of firefighters coped Wednesday with high temperatures that helped spur five wildfires, burning more than 7,000 acres. Southern California has experienced record, triple-digit temperatures and the warm weather is expected to continue for the next few days.

Officials were bracing for the season's first Santa Ana winds that may help the fires spread, said Bill Hoffer, a National Weather Service specialist. The winds were expected to begin Wednesday night.

``It lowers relative humidities, it causes a real drying effect,'' he said.

A brush fire burned more than 2,085 acres by Wednesday night and threatened about 300 homes in De Luz Canyon, just east of Camp Pendleton, said Kerri Uglik, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate; most decided to leave. The Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter in Fallbrook.

``The fire was just one ridge away,'' said Jeff Wenger, a base spokesman. ``It was a voluntary evacuation with a strong urgency to leave.''

Humid conditions and an absence of strong winds slowed the spread of the flames late Wednesday.

Fire officials said the blaze started on a training range about noon Tuesday, apparently sparked by ammunition used in military exercises. Camp Pendleton is about 50 miles north of San Diego.

Meanwhile, a fast-moving arson blaze that began Tuesday destroyed four homes in the Reche Canyon area of Riverside County. It has burned about 2,387 acres and was 40 percent contained, said Capt. Rick Vogt of the California Department of Forestry. Full containment was expected by Thursday morning, Vogt said.

Fire officials initially said six homes were destroyed but revised the figures Wednesday. About 100 other homes were still threatened; property damage was estimated at $2 million, officials said.

Authorities learned that an 85-year-old man suffered burns Tuesday and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Another person also was taken to a hospital Tuesday after suffering smoke inhalation, Vogt said.

To the northeast, another arson fire had charred more than 2,500 acres at the north end of Fontana in San Bernardino County but was burning away from homes.

Also Wednesday, a fire that broke out in the late afternoon scorched about 10 acres and burned uphill in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, said county Fire Capt. Mark Savage. No structures were threatened.

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