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Crews bringing California wildfire under control

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Fires continue to rage in California
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: So-called Crown Fire is 82 percent contained
  • Weather conditions more favorable to firefighters
  • Fire ignites 14,000 acres, fire officials say
  • Two other fires blacken thousands of acres in southern California

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- More favorable weather conditions Saturday helped firefighters in their bid to contain the roaring Crown Fire, one of several in southern California.

Firefighters had the fire 82 percent contained Saturday evening, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

Authorities said that they had lifted evacuation orders and most residents had returned home, while hundreds of firefighters and more than a dozen aircraft worked to extinguish the Crown Fire.

"If we can get aggressive with the air drops we'll be in good shape. And we're already doing pretty good," Don Kunitomi of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told CNN.

The blaze has ignited 14,000 acres in the area, fire officials said.

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Two other fires have blackened more than 17,000 acres.

Fire officials said the Crown Fire represents the biggest challenge.

On Friday, about 1,370 firefighters and 250 fire engines were at the scene of the blaze, which was burning in a sparsely populated, rural area.

Authorities were working to ensure the Crown Fire did not destroy power lines that provide electricity throughout the region.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has asked residents near the fire to limit their power usage, though no fire-related outages have been reported.

The weather did not cooperate Friday, which turned out to be one of the hottest days this week, with humidity in the low teens.

"That's creating a little bit of a challenge, and obviously causing a bit more fire spread," said Matt Levesque of the L.A. County Fire Department.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the situation in southern California changed drastically as the weather shifted.

"We were very fortunate not to have fires for some time, because the air was cool and we didn't have the experience of dry weather and all of these winds and so on, but all of a sudden the fire season kicked in," he said Friday.

"But we are ready," the governor added. "There's great coordination going on, and we have resources distributed all over the state."

The cause of the Crown Fire is under investigation.

Two more wildfires engulfed the area this week: the Bull Fire, southeast of the town of Tehachapi, and the West Fire, north of Tehachapi in the Sequoia National Forest.

The Bull Fire has ignited 16,460 acres and was 81 percent contained, officials said Saturday morning. It has destroyed eight homes, but no evacuations have been ordered.

Meanwhile, the West Fire has destroyed 30 structures, mostly homes. Authorities have warned residents to keep their cars and house windows closed to prevent smoke inhalation.

Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for Kern County, located approximately 130 miles north of Los Angeles.

 
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