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Wind Fuels California Wildfires

Dry conditions and strong winds hampered efforts to contain a wildfire in northern Los Angeles County that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, one of several blazes authorities are battling in the state.

Nearly 1,600 homes in Santa Clarita had been evacuated since the fire began Saturday, but no injuries or structural damage was immediately reported. "Only 600 to 800 homes are in imminent danger," said county fire spokesman Mike Brown.

A thousand firefighters are battling the Santa Clarita fire, reports CBS News Early Show National Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports. Unusually hot temperatures and the erratic winds fanned the flames.

Authorities were taking precautions by evacuating all three canyons north of the blaze, as flames inched toward homes in the communities of Fair Oaks Ranch and Via Princesa, and those on both sides of Sand Canyon, Brown said.

The 4,200-acre blaze was 35 percent contained Sunday night. It forced authorities to temporarily close a 10-mile stretch of the Antelope Valley Freeway east of Interstate 5.

The blaze was one of several burning across more than 40,000 acres in the state, from eastern San Diego County to Yosemite National Park. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sunday approved a request for federal funds for the blaze, one of six such requests in California during the past week.

Another blaze to elicit aid from the agency, a 3,600-acre fire about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside County, was 50 percent contained Sunday.

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Sunday for about 500 homes, but voluntary evacuations were issued for another 200 homes, said Jim Boano, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry. The fire destroyed three single-wide mobile homes, 7 vehicles, 11 outbuildings, one motor home and one travel trailer.

The blaze started when an unidentified person shooting target practice sparked a flame that spread to vegetation, officials said. The person was given a citation and may have to pay all the firefighting costs, Boano said.

Firefighters continued to make steady progress against a wildfire that has been burning since Monday about 45 miles north of Los Angeles. The arson fire was about 80 percent contained Sunday and had scorched 17,418 acres, destroying three homes and five outbuildings.

Two firefighters suffered heat-related injuries and one firefighter died in a traffic accident while returning home from the fire's front. Nearly 1,000 people from rural communities had left earlier in the week but returned to their homes Sunday.

Over the weekend in Diego County, a nearly 9,000-acre fire was extinguished Sunday afternoon and a 92-acre fire was fully contained Sunday night.

And a lightning-sparked wildfire in Yosemite National Park was being allowed to burn because its slow-moving flames were cleaning the forest floor. The blaze had scorched at least 3,000 acres and forced the closure of several popular trails.

Elsewhere, fire crews in western Nevada started heading home Sunday after mostly containing an erratic fire that had destroyed at least 15 homes and briefly threatened the governor's mansion in Carson City. The wind-driven fire, which blackened nearly 7,600 acres along a four-mile stretch of the Sierra foothills, was 85 percent contained late Saturday and fire officials said it could be fully contained by Tuesday.

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