Big Sur fire flares up, closing vast wilderness
Wet, cool weather dampens blazes in Southern CaliforniaOctober 26, 1996
Web posted at: 11:59 p.m. EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Fanned by high winds, a resurgent wildfire in the rugged Big Sur area of the central California coast Saturday forced the closure of a wilderness area, and nearby homeowners were told to prepare to evacuate.
The fire, burning in the Ventana wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest, an area famous for its natural beauty, has consumed about 4,400 acres, fire officials estimated.
The entire Ventana wilderness area was closed Saturday because of the fire, and area residents and businesses were told to be on the alert for possible evacuation.
"The winds can be very erratic," Peggy Linn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said. "If the winds really come up, homes could be threatened. We have everyone on alert to be prepared to evacuate."
Earlier this week, firefighters thought they had the fire almost contained, but it jumped fire lines and spread quickly in rugged, inaccessible forest and brush.
The fire was only 30 percent contained Saturday. And about 2,400 firefighters were battling the blaze, about 150 miles south of San Francisco. They were supported by nine air tankers and 16 helicopters.
One travel trailer was destroyed, and five firefighters received minor injuries.
Officials estimated the cost of the firefighting effort at nearly $4.8 million so far and said it could reach $9.8 million.
Southern California fires abate
To the south, firefighters in Ventura, Malibu and San Diego counties Saturday benefited from a shift toward cooler, wetter weather.
Heavy thunderstorms early Saturday bruised San Diego County, dumping rain, slamming pea-sized hail against windows and even dusting some areas with snow that quickly melted. About 3,000 residents briefly lost power.
The rains enabled firefighters to contain and mop up the fires that destroyed more than 100 homes and blackened nearly 62 square miles earlier this month.
Northerly wind was blowing at about 25 mph, down from 70 mph earlier in the week.
More than 100 homes were lost in last week's blazes, most in an 8,600-acre blaze at Carlsbad in San Diego County. Officials called that fire fully contained by fire lines Saturday but not controlled.
The Ventura fire 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles began Friday evening, apparently started by an arsonist, in a rugged, brush-covered park. It spread quickly toward Harrop's neighborhood about three blocks from City Hall.
Homes closest to the flames were evacuated and the homecoming football game at Ventura High School was halted as hazy smoke covered the field.
By Saturday morning, the 450-acre fire was 80 percent contained, said Ventura County Fire Department spokeswoman Alison Schember.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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