California Wildfire Threatens Homes

U.S. Forest Department fire trucks drive past flames as fast-moving Los Padres National Forest wildfire blows up along Templin Highway adjacent to Interstate 5 Tuesday Sept. 12, 2006, near Castaic, Calif.
A stubborn, two-week-old wildfire that has scorched more than 125 square miles moved toward a rural community in the Los Padres National Forest, propelled by erratic winds and threatening about 170 people living in scattered ranch homes near the northern edge of the blaze.

The fire, which doubled in size over the weekend as it was fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds, has already scorched more than 80,111 acres of chaparral and timber since it was ignited Labor Day by someone burning debris in the forest. The fire started about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and was 15 percent contained late Monday, said Bruce Emmens, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

Despite its increase in size, a cool, moist ocean breeze has slowed it and put communities that were still several miles away out of immediate danger.

Counting on help from shifting winds, teams of firefighters trekked into the remote forest to carve fire lines in an effort to prevent flames from roaring toward several mountain communities, including Ojai, an artists' enclave popular with tourists.

At one point, the blaze crept within 12 miles of Ojai, prompting authorities to advise a precautionary evacuation of 350 homes over the weekend. But the threat had been "greatly reduced" by Monday, U.S. Forest Service Capt. Mark Whaling said.

Meanwhile, firefighters took control of two desert wildfires eight miles apart, which forced the temporary evacuation of about 2,500 residents over the weekend. Two homes were destroyed by one of those blazes.