From: Associated Press
Published September 17, 2007 07:22 AM

Weather Aids Crews Fighting SoCal Fires

Aided by cooler weather, firefighters in Southern California were gaining ground on two wildfires that raged through brush left dry by high summer temperatures.

A change in wind direction Sunday helped crews begin containing a 15,433-acre — or more than 24 square mile — wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest that left hundreds evacuated from homes and two major roadways closed.

The fire was burning in a northwest direction away the resort mountain community of Big Bear Lake, Forest Service spokeswoman Norma Bailey said. About 340 residents of the Fawnskin area remained evacuated Sunday night but another 1,200 who voluntarily left their homes in Green Valley Lake have returned, Bailey said.

Highway 38 remained closed from Big Bear Dam to the Stanfield Cutoff, Bailey said, while Highway 18 was shut down from the dam to Running Springs. Six schools in the Bear Valley Unified School District canceled classes Monday as a precaution, affecting 3,200 students.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County on Saturday, clearing the way for state government assistance with costs related to the fire. The fire burned several outbuildings at a campground.

In eastern San Diego County, a wildfire northeast of Julian had burned 1,300 acres, or more than 2 square miles, authorities said Sunday. The fire, which authorities said was started by an illegal campfire, was 60 percent contained.

The blaze led to the evacuation of about 400 people from the nearby subdivision of Whispering Pines. Residents in the southern part of the subdivision were allowed back in their homes Sunday after evacuating Saturday.

One vacation home was destroyed and five outbuildings were damaged. Full containment was expected by Tuesday.

In Helena, Mont., a fast-moving grass fire destroyed one unoccupied house and a few outbuildings Sunday on the west edge of town. There were no injuries reported.

The 50-acre blaze prompted the evacuation of a mobile home park and several other homes near Spring Meadow Lake, affecting about 500 people, authorities said.

A house that was not lived in and about three outbuildings were destroyed. At least four power poles were burned, causing an electrical outage affecting about 3,000 people, said NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch.

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