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California wildfire triples in size, but evacuation orders are lifted

Over 28,000 acres have been burned in southern California, and officials say the fire is at 20 percent containment. Officials are hoping to get a lucky break to fight the fires. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

A raging 28,000-acre wildfire that sent thousands of people fleeing from their homes in Southern California was about 56 percent contained and evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, officials said.

The Springs Fire has charred a 44-square mile swatch across Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

High temperatures, dry vegetation and strong winds helped stoke the blaze, which began Thursday off the Ventura Freeway.

Fifteen homes have been damaged as close to 1,900 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters have worked to bring the flames under control, according to a release from the Ventura County Fire Department.

Forecasters expected increased humidity over the weekend, which they expected would help firefighters, who had battled early Santa Ana winds. The strong gusts blew from inland regions toward the coast and drove the Springs Fire toward the Pacific Ocean this week but died down on Friday.

“It’s a total turnaround from what we had,” Kurt Kaplan, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard, Calif., told the Associated Press of the break in the weather.

David Mcnew / Getty Images

Firefighters battle a growing wildfire that reached the beaches in Ventura County and pushes its way toward the upscale city of Malibu.

“Firefighters continue to construct control line and mop up operations. Firefighters are working in a challenging environment, with the potential for fire flare-ups throughout the day,” the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a release. “A low pressure weather system has developed over the fire bringing higher humidity, lower temperatures, [and] creating an opportunity to increase containment.”

Capt. Mike Lindberry of the Ventura County Fire Department said that workers planned to take advantage of the improved conditions to get a hold on the fire.

“That will give us a chance because it’s going to really bring that fire activity down quite a bit,” Lindberry told the AP on Saturday. “I think we will make some significant progress,”

Firefighters still faced the challenges of fighting the flames in the scrubby brush areas where the fire spread.

“It feels … like you’re always behind,” U.S. Forest Service Division Chief Steve Seltzner told NBC Los Angeles. “Just about the time you get caught up, the fire is out-flanking you.”

The Pacific Coast Highway was reopened on Friday night after a nine-mile stretch was shut down on Thursday evening as flames crawled down slopes toward the coast.

“The hillside is subject to falling debris and rock slides as there is little vegetation,” the California Department of Transportation cautioned in a release.


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