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Howling Santa Ana winds, dry brush fueling California wildfire

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Southern California is ablaze with at least six wildfires burning out of control today. The largest one had burned a trail to the beach in Ventura County and now lurches towards the upscale city of Malibu. The strong Santa Ana winds coupled with dry brush throughout the state are adding fuel to the fires as firefighters try to contain several blazes at once.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One of the wildfires, dubbed the Springs Fire, was within "seven or eight miles" of Malibu, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said.

"We've got hot, dirty, unglamorous firefighting work going on right now, guys with shovels trying to scratch out lines on the ground," Nash says. "We've got those guys on these steep hillsides in the dark with nothing but the light of the fire and a flashlight."

The Springs Fire grew to 10,000 acres and was 10 percent contained as of this morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.

The blustery weather is only expected to exacerbate an already tender situation, as dry winds from offshore were expected to bring gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour to the state. Winds expected to drop and temperatures to cool into the high 60s later in the day.

An eight-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was shut down for a time on Thursday night as bright orange flames raced down scrubby hillsides toward the Pacific Ocean.

"We have conditions that are very dramatic, very dangerous for firefighters. This fire is growing," Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Tom Kruschke says. "We are asking members of the public to be very aware: This is very dangerous. This is still a moving fire. If you were asked to evacuate, it will be a while before you are allowed in. And if at one point you are uncomfortable, please leave the area. It's not safe to stay."

Evacuations have taken place. At least fifteen homes have suffered fire damage. More than 2,000 homes and 100 commercial properties were under threat from the fire, Nash said, adding that the numbers could grow.

More than 900 firefighters on the scene got a brief reprieve as the humidity jumped and winds died down overnight.

Crews expected to receive help from tankers and helicopters today, according to a release from the Ventura County Fire Department.

Santa Ana winds, which blow torrid air from the desert toward the Pacific Ocean, were at a sustained 40 miles per hour and were expected to return today, though perhaps to a lesser degree, Nash said.

Extremely dry plant life, left from a season in which only about five inches of rain fell, is adding fuel tot wildfires, Nash adds.

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