Five Blazes Erupt Tuesday in Start of California Fire Season

MOORPARK, Calif., Sept. 23 (UPI) — Santa Ana winds fueled wildfires across Southern California, including a Ventura County blaze that ate 8,600 acres and forced hundreds to flee, officials said.

The fires erupted Tuesday, the first day of autumn, which usually marks the beginning of strong Santa Ana winds. Firefighters told the Los Angeles Times they were preparing for a difficult week, considering a forecast of unusually high winds and extreme heat through the end of the week.

“We’re in triple-digit temperatures and single-digit humidities … and it’s beginning with a bang here,” said climatologist William Patzert of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “There’s not much good news.”

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning Tuesday for mountains and canyons in Southern California. The warning was extended through Thursday, prompting the U.S. Forest Service officials to delay their containment date for the massive Station Fire near Los Angeles until the warning expires, the Times said.

Firefighters in Ventura County battled a wildfire as it consumed miles of hillsides and agricultural land until reaching the outskirts of Moorpark, the Times reported Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the county a disaster area.

Crews quickly contained a fire in Temecula that burned five acres in an open field, officials said.

In Norco, a fire that began near the Riverside-Norco border charred 175 acres and was 50 percent contained by Tuesday evening, the Times said.

Firefighters used air drops to suppress a small brushfire in Riverside in the Santa Ana River bed, and reported the fire was 17 percent contained by Tuesday evening.

In Redlands, flames threatened several evacuated structures in a 17-acre blaze that officials said was 50 percent contained by early evening.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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