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Firefighters Battle LA Blaze

More than 500 firefighters aided by planes scooping up water from the Pacific Ocean struggled to bring a raging brush fire under control Wednesday after it threatened million-dollar homes in the Los Angeles suburbs.

The blaze, burning in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Glendale, destroyed only one structure at a police firing range. But at times, the flames came within a few hundred yards of expensive homes, prompting evacuations before winds shifted and the fire moved away.

"Firefighters are getting the upper hand at this point," said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Steve Valenzuela. "Mother Nature calls the shots on some of these fires. In this case the fire has been able to be brought under control when the winds temporarily died off."

Valenzuela said firefighters were keeping a wary eye on the few remaining hot spots, which could be fanned into fresh fires if the winds picked up again.

Earlier, as the fire raged overnight, driven by shifting winds of up to 40 mph, about an entire neighborhood was threatened.

Officials ordered 25 homes evacuated Tuesday night near where the blaze erupted in the La Canda-Flintridge community, and dozens of other families heeded authorities' advice to leave as flames advanced toward their homes in Glendale.

"It looked like a movie," said Carol Tatum after firefighters banged on her door and advised her to get out of her house. She didn't ask any questions and just grabbed her cats and fled. "I'm still in shock right now. I'm shaking," Tatum said as she and neighbors watched flames race up a hillside near their homes.

Fire officials have declared the fire 70 percent contained approximately 12 hours after it was started. The cause of the blaze, which has burned about 800 acres was not immediately known.

During the night it was a harrowing experience for everyone involved. Helicopters continued to drop water on the flames, which one official said was unusual and involved pilots flying in darkness in an area crisscrossed by high-voltage power lines.

"It's really a safety decision based on the pilot, the terrain and the wind. All those factors are considered," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Mark Whaling. "We want to thank the helicopter pilots for their great efforts. Obviously, that's probably why we have no (homes) lost," he added.

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