Ventura fire, along with two others, keeping California firefighters busy

Ventura fire threatened nearby homes, but was 60 percent contained by late Tuesday, fire officials said.

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    YouTube screen shot of Ventura fire video from Camarillo, California on July 13.
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Fire officials credit good brush clearance and aggressive firefighting tactics with helping crews get the upper hand on two brush fires that burned dangerously close to homes, prompting some evacuations in Southern California.

In Ventura County, an afternoon brush fire Tuesday threatened homes, burned at least 50 acres near a Camarillo neighborhood and sent up huge plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles.

Fire officials issued voluntary evacuation warnings as four helicopters and air tankers dropped water on the flames throughout the afternoon.

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The fire came within a few feet of backyards as it burned uphill through steep canyons consuming the dry brush, said Captain Ron Oatman.

Many residents cleared defensible space around their property, which made the firefighters' work easier, he said. The blaze was 60 percent contained at 6 p.m. Full containment was expected Wednesday.

Oatman said a preliminary investigation indicates the fire started at a homeless encampment.

In the San Gabriel Valley city of Walnut, a small blaze also briefly threatened homes, before Los Angeles County and West Covina firefighters contained it. Capt. Sam Padilla said 24 homes were evacuated and two firefighters suffered minor to moderate injuries.

A third brush fire broke out Tuesday during a morning training exercise at the Camp Pendleton Marine base. The blaze started in the Aliso Canyon area and grew to 2,700 acres before it was 60 percent contained by evening.

Base firefighters, Orange County Fire Authority helicopters and U.S. Forest Service crews battled the flames, which is burning through undeveloped land.

The fires erupted on the first warm day of the summer in Southern California. Weeks of persistent cloudy and cool "June Gloom" weather broke Tuesday, with sunny skies and high temperatures.

The National Weather Service says high pressure building over the desert Southwest is moving west, where it will be anchored through the weekend with seasonable temperatures nearing the century mark in many areas. The weather service has issued an "excessive heat watch" for parts of Riverside and Imperial counties from Thursday morning through Friday evening.

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