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Crews winning battles against California wildfires

Weather conditions, once working against firefighters, are now helping ground crews contain 60 percent of the blaze in southern California, NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

California firefighters expected to contain a massive wildfire Monday that had burned 28,000 acres, damaged and destroyed properties, caused evacuations and cost millions of dollars to battle, authorities said.

A reversal of winds and higher humidity helped the more than 1,000 fire personnel on the scene reach a 75 percent containment level late Sunday, and evacuation orders had been lifted, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, commonly known as Cal Fire.

The blaze, which started Wednesday, quickly spread as hot Santa Ana winds and low humidity pushed it toward the Pacific Ocean. By Friday it had grown to 10,000 acres and was threatening Malibu after reaching the beach in Ventura County.

An eight-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed, and evacuation orders were widespread. But over the weekend, the wind changed direction, blowing cooler and much more humid air in from the Pacific.

Water-dropping airplanes and helicopters have fought the Springs Fire for days, along with more than 2,000 firefighters, NBCLosAngeles.com reported, saying the cost of the effort was expected to reach about $8 million.

Authorities on Monday continued battling a second large blaze, the Panther Fire in Tehama County, which had burned nearly 7,000 acres by Sunday night and was concentrated in rugged terrain, Cal Fire said.

More than 1,800 people were working Sunday night to gain the upper hand on the fire, and three injuries had been reported. The fire was listed as 60 percent contained, and Cal Fire said the blaze was expected to be fully surrounded by Thursday.

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.

The Panther fire threatened a couple of commercial properties and outbuildings, but it had not destroyed homes, Cal Fire said.

The much larger Springs Fire threatened thousands of homes, but damage was limited to 16 outbuildings and four commercial properties, Cal Fire said, noting that 10 outbuildings had been destroyed.

Weather was expected to continue aiding the firefighters, according to the National Weather Service. The “Red Flag Warnings” that indicate conditions most favorable for wildfires had been lifted for all but the northernmost part of the state by Monday.

The cause of both fires remained under investigation Monday.

Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said last week that there had been no lightning or other natural phenomenon when the Springs Fire started.

In nearby Riverside County, the so-called Summit Fire was fully contained Saturday night after burning more than 3,000 acres, destroying a home and causing two injuries. The cause of it, too, remained under investigation.


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