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New Wildfire Erupts North Of L.A.

California firefighters chased new flames running on the wind through desert brush in northern Los Angeles County even as they tightened the noose on other wildfires Tuesday.

The Crown Fire near the community of Acton, north of Los Angeles, erupted during the afternoon and rapidly spread to more than 5,000 acres as winds gusted to 25 mph.

It destroyed a mobile home, an abandoned structure and a bridge, Los Angeles County fire Inspector Mike McCormick said. Residents were ordered to leave about 175 homes but there were no reports of any injuries.

"They're talking about zero percent containment," said CBS News Correspondent Manuel Gallegus. "This fire is still very much out of control."

The fire — burning through grass, brush and pinon, juniper and Joshua trees — also threatened a private animal refuge in Acton that houses 1,000 dogs and other animals.

Helicopters and air tankers made water drops as bulldozers, with flames licking close, carved firebreaks. Airplanes swooped low to paint the scrub with red swaths of fire retardant. Some 860 firefighters converged on the area as temperatures climbed into the high 90s.

"The sun has been beating down on this chaparral, brush, and sage all day," said Gallegus. "As the sun sets, things calm down, temperatures lower and the winds are calmer, but first thing in the morning, it starts to heat up and the wind starts to pick up."

Three national forest roads were closed indefinitely, including Angeles Forest Highway, a commuter route from the booming Antelope Valley to Los Angeles. A Red Cross center was set up in Palmdale.

Columns of smoke blocked the sun, throwing a shadow over scattered ranch homes.

Evacuations have been ordered but not everyone is complying, reports Gallegus.

"The residents that we talked to had their belongings packed, their photographs and some of their most-valued possessions, and they were ready to go, pointed down that hill, but they still didn't want to leave," he said.

Those who are staying are watering their houses, but also took protective steps long ago.

"They have pretty well manicured lots and parcels around their ranches where they have the brush cut back and some of the hillsides have been trimmed so they've done what they can to keep the fire from destroying their homes," Gallegus said.

"For us out here now this is like Groundhog Day," Stanton Florea, a national forest spokesman, said. "We had the Pine Fire ... the Foothill Fire a week ago Monday, and now this one."

After dark, a wall of flame stretching for several miles began climbing away from homes and deeper into Angeles National Forest, where officials worried it could find even more fuel in densely packed, dead conifer trees.

"One of our concerns is that if fire reaches the top of the San Gabriel Mountains, it could run east through the forest to Wrightwood" more than 20 miles away, Florea said.

Skies were clearer and the situation was improving to the west and northwest, where the county's two other big fires blackened hills and canyons.

The 6,000-acre Foothill Fire near Santa Clarita was 81 percent contained and the 17,418-acre Pine Fire near Lake Hughes was 95 percent contained after destroying three homes and a dozen outbuildings. Full containment of both was expected Wednesday evening. All residents evacuated from those areas were allowed to return home by Tuesday.

Fires have swept across thousands of acres of brushland and forests in California this month. Large-scale losses of homes has been prevented, but firefighting costs have mounted into the tens of millions of dollars.

Near Hemet in Riverside County, the 3,667-acre Melton Fire was contained Tuesday morning. The blaze 90 miles east of Los Angeles destroyed four mobile homes, 14 outbuildings and more than a dozen vehicles. Full control was predicted for Wednesday night.

In Central California, the Maze Fire had burned 1,600 acres in Stanislaus County. The fire, in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, was active on both sides of the San Joaquin River, said county fire Deputy Chief Jim Weigand.

In Yosemite National Park, a lightning-sparked wildfire spread across more than 4,219 acres and was being allowed to grow on one front, park officials said.

A 300-acre fire that began late Monday in Santa Barbara County was 90 percent contained Tuesday evening. About 200 firefighters battled the blaze near Jalama Beach County Park. No injuries or structural damages were reported.

In Alaska, about 150 people were under orders to evacuate their rural Fairbanks subdivision because of a 484,600-acre forest fire, but most residents were ignoring the directive.

"A lot of those folks are holding out and watching it closely," said fire information officer Chris Papen

Erratic winds pushed the southwest edge of the fire toward the subdivision Monday morning and reached a "trigger point" four miles from the houses Monday night, Papen said.

By the latest estimates, 469 wildfires have burned more than 3.6 million acres in the state this summer, with 109 fires now burning. However, most Alaska fires burn in remote, unpopulated forest and are not fought.

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