Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raging Blazes Subside Injury Total Hits 84; Californians Brace for More Searing Winds

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raging Blazes Subside Injury Total Hits 84; Californians Brace for More Searing Winds

Article excerpt

Firefighters gained the upper hand Friday on infernos that caused more than $400 million in damage across Southern California. But crews were racing against time as searing winds were expected to return and whip up the flames again.

Calmer, cooler weather helped extinguish four wildfires and contain several others after walls of flame leveled exclusive suburbs, destroyed more than 700 homes and scorched 180,000 acres from Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, to the Mexican border. Still out of control were a 35,000-acre blaze in Ventura County that incinerated 35 homes and a 20,000-acre fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

More than 6,000 firefighters - some from as far away as Oregon - were battling the remaining blazes.

The Santa Ana winds that caused the parched region to ignite like a tinderbox Wednesday were expected to pick up over the weekend, increasing the danger to population centers.

The National Weather Service said that the winds were expected again today but that they would not as strong as the 50 mph winds that whipped wildfires into walls of flame earlier in the week.

"This area burns very aggressively with no winds at all. I'm very worried," U.S. Forest Service officer Tom Harbour said at a fire camp in Altadena, where 118 homes and buildings were destroyed this week. As he spoke, the fire no longer posed a threat to houses but raged out of control in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Altadena, 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

In Pasadena, Andres Huang, 35, a transient, pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor charge of setting the fire that engulfed parts of Altadena by lighting brush at his hillside camp to keep warm. He was jailed in lieu of $25,000 bail; trial was set for Nov. 15.

No deaths were reported, but the injury total climbed to 84, including 67 firefighters.

The fire disaster was California's worst since a blaze killed 25 people, destroyed 3,000 homes and caused $1.75 billion in damage in Oakland in 1991. …

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