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Crews Make Headway Against California Wildfire

  • VOA News

The Blue Cut fire burns in Upper Lytle Creek near Wrightwood, Calif., Aug. 19, 2016. Area residents were still being kept from their homes Saturday, even though evacuation orders were lifted for tens of thousands of others in Southern California.

The Blue Cut fire burns in Upper Lytle Creek near Wrightwood, Calif., Aug. 19, 2016. Area residents were still being kept from their homes Saturday, even though evacuation orders were lifted for tens of thousands of others in Southern California.

Firefighters made headway overnight against the Blue Cut wildfire in Southern California that has destroyed more than 300 homes and outbuildings, officials said Saturday.

The fire, which started Tuesday about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Los Angeles, is nearly 70 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said. The fire has burned more than 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) in the mountain areas of San Bernardino County.

No deaths have been reported in the Blue Cut fire, officials said, adding that an investigation into the cause of the blaze was continuing.

San Bernardino County fire spokesman Brad Pitassi said firefighters on Saturday were moving into a mop-up phase.

"Things are extremely positive. We're checking for additional hot spots that could potentially jump the line," Pitassi told the Associated Press. He said officials expected more residents to be able to reutrn to their homes throughout the weekend.

At its height, the wildfire threatened more than 34,000 homes, and more than 82,000 residents were told to evacuate.

Fire officials on Saturday said at least 105 homes and 213 outbuildings had been destroyed.

Late Friday and Saturday, evacuation orders were lifted for tens of thousands of people, allowing many to return to their homes, officials said. However, about 7,000 other residents, mainly in the mountain communities of Lytle Creek and Wrightwood, were still being kept from their homes.

The Blue Cut blaze is just one of several burning in California, where a five-year drought has left huge swaths of land with dried trees and brush.

Between January 1 and August 13, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported 3,874 fires that have burned 45,700 hectares (113,000 acres) and killed seven people, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This week alone, nearly 30 major wildfires have burned about 850 square kilometers (330 square miles) in eight Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The center blamed the fires on the prolonged drought in many areas, as well as unusually hot weather.

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