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Firefighters Worry Flare-ups Coming

Firefighters fought blazes that have burned more than 7,200 acres of rugged Southern California landscape and worried Wednesday about flare-ups as hot winds gusted and temperatures rose.

"I'm very concerned. If the winds pick up, it could spread to the ocean," Malibu Mayor Andy Stern said as about 200 firefighters and several aircraft worked to corral a 25-acre fire in the Santa Monica Mountains. The fire, burning in an area with a history of destructive blazes, was 7 percent contained.

In Orange County, California, a 7,179-acre fire east of Anaheim and Orange was 22 percent contained.

"It's hot out here. It's low humidity, in the single digits. Winds are gusting to 35, to 40 mph," said Dennis Shell, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. "It's a huge concern for all of us."

A red flag warning of extreme fire danger was extended through Saturday as Southern California faced another week of hot, dry winter weather.

Near Malibu, California, the fire burned along steep, rocky canyons covered by shoulder-high vegetation. Three elementary schools and a high school were closed as a precaution.

The fire was sparked shortly before 5 a.m. by a burning sport utility vehicle parked on a dirt road, authorities said.

The canyons are historical fire corridors. Wind-pushed wildfires swept from the Calabasas area to Malibu in 1993 and 1996, destroying hundreds of homes.

In Orange County, the fire that began as a controlled burn in the Cleveland National Forest on Feb. 2.

A mandatory evacuation was lifted Tuesday, allowing about 2,000 people to return to their homes.

The fire burned in ankle-deep grass on rolling hillsides and in canyons choked with head-high brush that hadn't burned for 20 years, Shell said.

More than 1,000 firefighters were on the scene. Four had been treated for minor injuries.

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