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Massive California Wildfire Staying Away from Populated Areas

Firefighters say a massive wildfire burning in the southern California desert appears to be veering away from populated areas.

But firefighters say the blaze's intense heat could create its own weather patterns, generating winds or lightning that could cause the fire to spread unpredictably.

Two wildfires merged into one in the San Bernardino Forest Friday, about 100 kilometers east of Los Angeles. Together, they have destroyed some 25,000 hectares of land and more than 160 homes and other buildings.

A California fire official, Becki Redwine of the CA Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Los Angeles Times that the merger of the two blazes will make it easier to fight, giving workers one focus rather than two.

Both fires were sparked by lightning last Sunday, and were spread by high winds, searing desert heat, dead trees and very dry wood after years of drought and insect damage.

Nearly three-thousand firefighters have been battling the inferno. Several people have suffered minor injuries. A search is under way for a man reported missing from Pioneertown, a community created in the 1940s as a backdrop for Hollywood Westerns.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in the area.

Some information for this report provided by AP.