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Officials: L.A. wildfire 60 percent contained

This home was one of the 78 destroyed in the wildfire north of Los Angeles. Niko Solorio, who had lived there, videotapes the ruins on Friday. The home was in Big Tujunga Canyon, just outside Sunland. Reed Saxon / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fire officials had contained 60 percent of the huge wildfire north of Los Angeles by Tuesday morning, but the flames and the winds that fanned them were staying unpredictable.

Plans to set preventive backfires on Monday had to be scrapped with a new flare-up in yet another area. Fire officials canceled plans to burn out brush and create a buffer south of the ferocious fire to protect the foothill neighborhoods of the San Gabriel Valley.

Incident Commander Mike Dietrich said late Monday that the weather — including 30-40 mph winds and 10 percent humidity — didn't cooperate, and the aircraft needed to support and monitor the burnout operations were diverted to the fire's northeastern flank.

The blaze had blackened 157,220 acres, or 246 square miles, as it burned deeper into the wilderness.

"Even the mountain goats won't climb in there because it's so steep and rugged," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County sheriff's and fire investigators continued their homicide investigation into the fire. Officials have said the cause of the fire was arson but have released no other findings.

Los Angeles County firefighters Tedmund Hall and Arnaldo Quinones were killed in a truck accident Aug. 30 while seeking an escape route for their inmate fire crew after flames overran their camp.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the men's vehicle was airlifted off a mountain and taken to a secure location Monday so investigators could analyze it. The examination of the site where the fire started near the Angeles Crest Highway wrapped up Monday, he said.

Damage assessment teams counted 78 homes, two commercial buildings and dozens of outbuildings destroyed by the flames, and 11 firefighters have been injured. The fire was expected to be fully contained Sept. 15.

The temporary city that sprang up to house, bathe and feed about 4,600 firefighters will be relocated Tuesday from a large park in the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles to another park near Irwindale to the east, closer to the active fire.

Also Tuesday, Los Angeles County approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the arsonist who set the fire. The state has already offered $100,000.