IMAGE: HELICOPTER FIGHTS FIRE
Gene Blevins  /  Reuters
A helicopter drops water on the Pinnacles Fire near Lake Arrowhead, Calif., on Tuesday.
updated 9/20/2006 9:43:41 AM ET 2006-09-20T13:43:41

Cooler weather helped firefighters make progress on three wildfires that have burned more than 95,000 acres of Southern California forests, including two new blazes and one that has lingered for more than two weeks.

One wildfire began early Tuesday less than three miles from the north shore of Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino National Forest. It quickly scorched more than 2,500 acres, or nearly four square miles, of dry grass and brush. It was 5 percent contained.

The blaze was burning away from the populated mountain hamlet, located about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, and toward the desert floor. Residents of Mariana Heights, a small community north of Lake Arrowhead, were urged to evacuate, and authorities closed a portion of Highway 173 in the area.

Although Tuesday afternoon winds of up to 20 mph helped the fire expand, evening temperatures helped firefighting efforts. “We expect it to slow down considerably,” said Daniel McCarthy, a forest spokesman.

Temperatures were expected to reach the 70s in the mountains, and 80s in the valleys on Wednesday, said Bill Forwood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Another wildfire that began Tuesday afternoon in the Angeles National Forest was burning about five miles north of La Canada Flintridge, a Los Angeles area foothill community. The blaze had burned 250 acres and prompted authorities to close a portion of Angeles Crest Highway, said forest spokeswoman Kathy Peterson.

The causes of both fires were under investigation.

Firefighters working to contain the sprawling Day Fire in the Los Padres National Forest got some help from onshore winds that slowed the blaze’s movement.

Since igniting Labor Day, the fire in the Los Padres National Forest has burned more than 145 square miles, or 93,340 acres, of rugged, mostly inaccessible terrain about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

It had briefly threatened the foothill communities of Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore when hot and dry Santa Ana winds over the weekend helped the fire double in size.

The threat passed for those communities, although authorities Tuesday were recommending evacuations for residents of Lockwood Valley to the north. Flames were about seven miles southeast of the area.

More than 2,000 firefighters, 24 helicopters and 10 air tankers were involved in battling the blaze. They will continue to carve fire lines to halt the fire’s march in anticipation of the return of Santa Ana winds expected for Friday, said fire spokesman Dan Bastion.

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