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California wildfire: 1,900 on the lines as firefighters labor to limit damage (+video)

Saturday's more favorable weather and the heroic work of 1,900 firefighters have limited damage from a fast-breaking California wildfire in Ventura County. State outlook is for an active fire season; elsewhere in the US conditions are less ominous.

By Staff writer / May 4, 2013

Hand crews work on the fire line after a wildfire near Point Mugu, Calif., Saturday. On Saturday, high winds and withering hot, dry air were replaced by the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

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After the monstrous Springs Fire in California's Ventura County tripled in size Friday, firefighters battled the blaze to 30 percent containment on Saturday, helped by the approach of cooler, wetter conditions battening down the flames.

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The fire threatened some 4,000 homes as it consumed 43 squares miles on the western slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, at one point with flames racing all the way to the Pacific Coast Highway. No deaths or injuries have been reported. Some 15 homes have been slightly damaged, but improving weather conditions, the yeoman work of some 1,900 firefighters, and fire-dampening preparations by homeowners have limited more widespread damage so far.

The National Weather Service predicted cooler temperatures, more settled winds, higher humidity, and a 20 percent chance of rain going into Sunday, which should continue to help firefighters lay breaks and contain larger portions of the blaze.

“The fire is really laying down,” said Tom Kruschke, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman.

For Californians, such a large fire nearly a month before the official kick-off of the wildfire season is ominous, especially as the National Interagency Fire Service on May 1 predicted a wildfire season of above-normal intensity in both southern and northern California.

Dry conditions abound, making fires easier to ignite, but drought has also stunted undergrowth, limiting potential fire fuel, the fire service reported.

As it stands, even an active fire season would struggle to compete with that of 2012, which nationally burned more than 9 million acres, much of it in Colorado, and of 2011, which saw record wildfires sweep across drought-ravaged Texas, destroying hundreds of homes and burning at least 4 million acres in the Lone Star State alone.

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