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Crews gain ground on wildfire north of L.A.

Firefighters spray water on burning plants as flames race across the desert floor in Palmdale, Calif., Friday.
Firefighters spray water on burning plants as flames race across the desert floor in Palmdale, Calif., Friday.Mike Meadows / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fire crews steadily gained ground Saturday on a smoldering wildfire that charred nearly 22 square miles of brush in the high desert north of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Don Kunitomi said Saturday evening that the blaze was 82 percent contained. He said no structures were threatened and all evacuation orders had been rescinded.

A separate wildfire burning for several hours in the Angeles National Forest above Glendora, west of Pasadena, burned some 15 acres of heavy brush by late Saturday afternoon. Kunitomi said that fire was 80 percent contained and did not threaten any structures.

The high-desert fire in Antelope Valley spewed plumes of thick smoke into nearby Palmdale as 1,300 firefighters worked to contain the two-day-old blaze and protect the city of 139,000.

Crews hoped to close the fire's south flank near Portal Ridge, Rancho Vista and Ana Verde as temperatures rose into the 90s and dry winds whipped up again as predicted.

"We're getting a handle on it," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Sam Padilla said earlier Saturday. "As soon as we contain that south end we'll be in better shape."

Padilla said there were no open flames — just smoldering embers — which has slowed the fire's spread.

"The way you work embers is by using hoses on the ground, so we're relying on our foot soldiers today," Kunitomi, the inspector, said. "It's important to clean up those embers because one hot gust of wind can start a spot fire."

Officials were prepared to again activate water-dropping aircraft, which helped hold back the fire late Friday when flames jumped an aqueduct and menaced power lines that deliver electricity to Southern California.

Winds apparently carried embers across the wide concrete channel, with flames rapidly spreading to backyard fences. As many as 2,300 structures were threatened at the height of the fire late Thursday. Evacuation orders were lifted Friday morning, but some roads remained closed.

One house and three mobile home residences were destroyed, authorities said.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Bryant said an investigation into the cause of the fire is centering on workers who were hammering on some bolts to remove a tire rim.

Crews also were battling a wildfire that has burned about 12 acres of heavy brush in the Angeles National Forest above Glendora, west of Pasadena.

Kunitomi said about 115 firefighters were assigned to the blaze that started Saturday morning, and at least two helicopters were providing air support. Most of the fire was burning inside the forest and no structures were threatened, he said.

Elsewhere, good weather in neighboring Kern County helped firefighters build containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.

Officials said a fire near Tehachapi that destroyed 23 homes and charred 2½ square miles of heavy brush was expected to be fully contained by Sunday.

To the north, a blaze that destroyed eight residences as it spread across about 26 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was also expected to be contained this weekend.