LA wildfire wanes, conditions dangerous

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Firefighters say they are making steady progress in surrounding a wildfire near Los Angeles that has destroyed several homes.

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The Los Angeles County Fire Department said the fire was 78 per cent contained, with full containment expected on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents who fled the blaze in suburbs about 40 kilometres northeast of downtown Los Angeles returned home Saturday evening as red-flag warnings of extremely dangerous fire conditions expired.

Officials cautioned that bone-dry winter conditions remain a threat for the region.

Crews focused on securing fire lines around the roughly three-square-mile (7.8-square-kilometre) blaze and looked ahead to rehabilitating the burn area to prevent erosion and possible mudslides, said US Forest Service spokesman Robert Brady.

“It’s starting to look fairly good,” Brady said. “We’re still in very dry conditions, so I would remind people to be careful out there.”

The fire erupted early Thursday in the Angeles National Forest when Santa Ana winds hit a campfire that authorities said was recklessly set by three men.

Gusts quickly spread flames from the San Gabriel Mountains into Glendora and Azusa, where some 3700 people had to evacuate at the fire’s peak.

Five homes were destroyed and 17 other houses, garages and other structures were damaged, according to early assessments.

The state is in a period of extended dry weather compounded in Southern California by repeated periods of the regional Santa Anas, dry and powerful winds that blow from the interior toward the coast, pushing back the normal flow of moist ocean air and raising temperatures to summer-like levels.

The dry conditions statewide led Governor Jerry Brown to formally declare a drought emergency Friday in order to seek a range of federal assistance.

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