Southern California Wildfire Grows as Crews Brace for Return of Wind

CALIMESA, California (AP) -- Crews battling a 6,000-acre (2400-hectare) wildfire scrambled to burn off heavy brush near homes Thursday before a resurgence of the hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

During the early morning hours, firefighters took advantage of cool, calm air to set a series of back fires to burn off thick brush near homes before the expected resurgence of Santa Ana winds later in the day.

''The weather was definitely in our favor,'' said Jason Neuman, a fire captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection/Riverside County.

Residents of about 20 homes closest to the fire were encouraged to evacuate, officials said.

Most had left by late Wednesday, said Jennifer Johnson, 20, whose friends and family helped her pack up her parents' two horses, two sheep, rooster, peacock and dog as the flames drew closer.

''There's been fires here before and it's gotten close before but I've never seen all of our neighbors go,'' she said, adding that she would stay unless the evacuation became mandatory.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that started in Mexico jumped the U.S. border and burned Wednesday across 1,640 acres (656 hectares) on the American side, officials said. It was about 10 percent contained. The blaze was sparked by a structure fire in Mexico that spread to the brush, officials said.

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