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Progress On California Wildfires

Firefighters contained a blaze in the hills above Malibu and were gaining Thursday on two others that had blackened more than 8,800 acres of rugged Southern California brush land.

The Malibu wildfire reached only 37 acres, but it burned intensely in an area where fires destroyed hundreds of homes in 1993 and 1996, officials said.

"It was a stubborn fire, but we fought it aggressively," said Los Angeles County fire inspector John Mancha.

The fire, in steep canyons covered by shoulder-high vegetation, was sparked a day earlier by a burning sport utility vehicle. No homes were threatened, but four schools were closed as a precaution.

A red-flag warning of extreme fire danger was extended to Saturday for most of Southern California, where hot, dry winter weather was forecast for the rest of the week.

Another fire broke out near the picturesque mountain town of Julian, Calif., 40 miles northeast of San Diego. It quickly scorched 45 acres, but firefighters slowed its spread overnight, according to the state Department of Forestry. A fire in the same area in 2003 killed 15 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes.

In Orange County, an 8,743-acre fire east of Anaheim and Orange was 35 percent contained, said Jerry Snyder, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service. The fire, which began as a controlled burn in the Cleveland National Forest on Feb. 2, was not immediately threatening any homes, officials said.

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