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News / Nation & World

California firefighters gain ground against big wildfires after hot, windy weekend

By RYAN SUN, Associated Press
Published: June 17, 2024, 10:19am

GORMAN, Calif. — Firefighters increased their containment of a large wildfire in mountains north of Los Angeles on Monday after a weekend of explosive, wind-driven growth along Interstate 5.

The Post Fire was 8% surrounded after scorching nearly 23 square miles (60 square kilometers) and forcing the evacuation of at least 1,200 campers, off-roaders and hikers from the Hungry Valley recreation area on Saturday.

“That 8% is good because it means we are increasing and bolstering our containment lines,” said Kenichi Haskett, a Los Angeles County Fire Department section chief.

Firefighters hoped to hold the fire at its current size, but further growth was possible, Haskett said.

The fire broke out as weather turned hot and windy in a region where grasses spawned by a rainy winter have long since dried out and easily burn.

The massive columns of smoke that marked the fire’s initial rampage were gone by Monday morning.

In Northern California, a wildfire sparked Sunday prompted evacuation orders and warnings for a sparsely populated area near Lake Sonoma. Known as the Point Fire, it was 20% surrounded Monday after charring nearly 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of San Francisco, and destroyed at least one structure.

Ben Nicholls, division chief of the Cal Fire district in area covering the Point fire, said Monday morning that fire activity subsided overnight.

“Forecasted winds are supposed to be less than we experienced yesterday, which should allow the resources assigned for this operational period to build and strengthen the control lines that were put in place yesterday,” Nicholls said in a video briefing.

The Southern California fire erupted Saturday afternoon near I-5 in Gorman, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles. Two structures burned within the evacuated recreation area.

To the south, popular Pyramid Lake was closed as a precaution on Father’s Day. Officials also warned residents of Castaic, home to about 19,000 people, that they should prepare to leave if the fire pushed farther south.

“If you’re in a warning area, be prepared with a ‘go bag,’ with overnight clothes and your cellphone, your medicines, your glasses. Have your car fueled up,” said Haskett. “Be ready to evacuate.”

About 75 miles (120 kilometers) to the east, the nearly 2-square-mile (5-square-kilometer) Hesperia Fire was 30% contained after no overnight growth. The fire erupted Saturday and forced road closures and evacuation warnings in San Bernardino County.