Malibu, Calif., Fire Grows to 2,200 Acres

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- High wind warnings remained in effect Tuesday as the seasonal Santa Ana wind fanned wildfires that threatened hundreds of Malibu homes overlooking the Pacific.

Two deaths had been blamed on the wind since the weekend, along with toppled trees, downed power lines and overturned tractor-trailer rigs.

Three homes in Malibu were damaged and hundreds more were threatened by a fire in the Santa Monica Mountains that had grown to 2,200 acres Tuesday. Wind also stoked a 150-acre blaze that damaged five homes near Norco, 45 miles east of Los Angeles, and a 110-acre fire in rugged terrain on Catalina Island.

More than 700 firefighters were battling the Malibu blaze, which was 10 percent contained Tuesday morning, said Inspector Ed Osorio of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The wind was blowing at 20 to 30 mph in the canyons with gusts up to 60 mph on the ridges.

Fire officials hoped to have the blaze controlled by the end of the day, when the wind was expected to calm.

About 100 people left their homes as mandatory evacuations were ordered for Encinal and Decker canyons in Malibu.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but a downed power line was suspected, Brown said. A woman was arrested for investigation of arson in the Norco fire, said Tracy Hobday, a Riverside County fire spokesman.

The dry, warm wind hit Sunday night and gusted up to 79 mph through Monday, blowing from the desert interior toward the coast.

A woman was killed by a falling tree Monday in San Diego's historic Old Town, and a passenger in a car was killed Sunday by windblown debris on a freeway in Riverside.

An estimated 730,000 Southern California Edison customers lost power at times during the two days, utility officials said. More than 3,000 had been without power for more than 24 hours, said Edison spokesman Gil Alexander. Power in the hardest hit areas may not be restored for several days, he said.

Metrolink commuter rail service was interrupted for nearly two hours Tuesday morning because the wind blew tree limbs onto the tracks in the Pomona area. On Monday, the wind caused numerous delays at Ontario International Airport and prompted American Airlines to cancel most of its flights there.

In Los Angeles, a falling power line started a fire that destroyed a house and three cars, said fire Capt. Al Higginbotham.

In Yorba Linda, a 91-year-old pepper tree planted by the father of former President Nixon had major damage, but was expected to survive, said an official of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.

The seasonal Santa Ana wind typically appears from September to February. In 1993, it fanned fires that charred thousands of acres, killed three and destroyed 1,000 buildings in Malibu, Altadena and Laguna Beach.

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