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SoCal Wildfire Burns Nearly 300 Acres

Firefighters were struggling on Monday to tame a wind-driven wildfire that has charred dense brush and trees in the hills east of Los Angeles and briefly threatened hundreds of homes.

Officials expected containment of the blaze, which had burned 290 acres, or almost half a square mile, by Monday evening. The cause was still under investigation.

"It's a very long, skinny fire," said Fire Capt. Julie Hutchinson of the California Department of Forestry. "Right now the wind is our biggest obstacle. We don't need any huge gusts in either direction."

Flames were dangerously close to hundreds of homes Sunday night, prompting a voluntary evacuation. The warnings were lifted by early Monday.

Hutchinson said firefighters using bulldozers were working to dig a line around the fire. Winds were blowing about 7 mph to 10 mph and temperatures that cooled into the 40s overnight helped firefighters get a handle on the blaze.

"The weather is cooperating with us," fire spokeswoman Cheri Peterson said.

Backfires were lit Sunday night to stop the fire from spreading further, CBS station KCBS-TV in Los Angeles reports.

The fire broke out Sunday evening and chewed through dense brush and trees covering hills west of Lake Elsinore and north of Highway 74, she said. Nearly 230 firefighters were working the blaze.

"We're definitely concerned about it growing," Hutchinson said.

The fire in Lake Elsinore, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, was the latest in a series of major Southern California wildfires in recent months. The fire was 40 miles from the site of last month's arson-sparked blaze that killed five firefighters and destroyed 34 homes.