IMAGE: AIRPLANE DROPS FIRE RETARDANT
Michael A. Mariant  /  AP
A California Department of Forestry air tanker drops fire retardant Sunday on the large fire burning near Ojai, Calif.
updated 9/19/2006 1:15:08 AM ET 2006-09-19T05:15:08

Teams of firefighters hiked into the remote wilderness along the Los Angeles-Ventura County line on Monday to fight a stubborn, two-week-old wildfire that has scorched more than 125 square miles of chaparral and timber.

The crews planned to spend the night carving fire lines with hand tools to prevent the flames from roaring toward several mountain communities.

“As long as there are no winds, firefighters will be able to build lines and make some headway,” said Forest Service fire Capt. Mark Whaling.

The largest of three Southern California blazes doubled in size when it was fanned by gusty winds over the weekend. But a cool, moist ocean breeze Sunday night slowed the fire and put communities out of immediate danger.

On Monday, Ventura County officials issued a voluntary evacuation for about 170 people in the rural community of Lockwood Valley, which was about five miles from the fire, Whaling said.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, which was ignited by someone burning debris. The fire has burned 80,111 acres since Labor Day and was 15 percent contained.

Meanwhile, two desert wildfires forced the temporary evacuation of about 2,500 residents. One fire was contained, the other 90 percent contained. Two homes were destroyed in one of the desert fires.

While no one was injured and no homes were lost in the largest fire, the blaze that has remained largely in the Los Padres National Forest crept within 12 miles of the artists’ enclave of Ojai, about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The blaze was about seven miles north of Fillmore and 10 miles northeast of Santa Paula.

In Montana, a weekend storm dumped as much as 2 inches of rain on two wildfires, dramatically slowing their growth. Fire managers said they expect to wrap up most firefighting efforts Tuesday.

One fire, 20 miles southeast of Livingston, has burned about 29,000 acres, or 45 square miles. It blew up on Wednesday, destroying two cabins plus a shop. It was 50 percent contained.

A fire 15 miles south of Big Timber, has burned 208,096 acres, or 325 square miles, and 26 homes since it began with a lightning strike Aug. 22. It was considered 85 percent contained.

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