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California brush fire burns homes

House fire
Fires in Fallbrook claimed several homes.  

FALLBROOK, California (CNN) -- Brush fires fueled by Santa Ana winds that blew up to 50 mph consumed 21 structures, scorched more than 3,400 acres and injured 11 people in Southern California.

A blaze known as the Fallbrook fire had done the most damage, burning 16 structures and more than 2,000 acres by sundown Sunday, said Bob Leonard, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Fallbrook is about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

The injured were taken to Fallbrook Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. Six other people who had jumped into a swimming pool to avoid being burned were treated for hypothermia.

In addition, two fire engines and a sheriff's cruiser were destroyed, Leonard said.

Santa Ana winds are formed by high air pressure in the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah and low pressure over the Pacific. The winds gain speed as they move through canyons and mountain passes, sometimes exceeding 100 mph in isolated areas. They are most prevalent in October through February, especially in December. 

At the peak, more than 600 firefighters were battling the blaze, and more help was expected to arrive overnight, he said.

Meanwhile, driven by strong winds, the fire had moved onto part of Camp Pendleton by late Sunday.

Just north of Fallbrook, the De Luz fire destroyed five homes in a little more than a hour Sunday afternoon, said Audrey Hagen, a fire information officer for the California Department of Forestry. The fire began to rage around noon (3 p.m. EST). Within a few hours, the blaze had grown to 2,000 acres.

About 250 firefighters, including military personnel from nearby Camp Pendleton, were on the scene trying to extinguish the fire as it moved westward through heavy brush, Hagen said. More of the large homes scattered throughout the area were threatened, and voluntary evacuations were under way, she said.

To the northwest in Anaheim, about 1,400 acres were burned in Coal Canyon, on the eastern edge of the city near a rock quarry, said Kymbra Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Fire Authority. However, the winds that were fueling the fire were also driving it away from the nearest homes in Anaheim Hills, she said.

Fire truck
This fire truck was caught in the blaze near Fallbrook.  

More than 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze, which began at 9 p.m. Saturday (midnight EST.)

Fleming said that, while February is not typically a high-risk month for fires in the area, Santa Ana winds helped spread the fire.




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