From: Dan Whitcomb, Reuters
Published July 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Wildfire Burns Near Beverly Hills Neighborhood

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire raced through a scenic canyon toward an exclusive Beverly Hills neighborhood Tuesday, but firefighters brought the flames under control before they could reach the multimillion-dollar homes.

The blaze, one of several fires in the record-breaking heat across California, was 90 percent contained by late afternoon and damaged only one home. There were no evacuations or reports of injuries.

Meanwhile, firefighters in San Diego, more than 100 miles to the south, spent a third day struggling to control a fierce wildfire that has blackened more than 15,400 acres and forced evacuation of several neighborhoods.

The so-called Horse Fire was only about 5 percent contained as of Tuesday, when officials called in a jumbo jet that had been converted to a massive air tanker capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant.

The U.S. Forest Service said investigators believe the Horse Fire was started Sunday by illegal immigrants who abandoned a campfire in Horsethief Canyon after crossing the Mexican border.

On Catalina Island off the Southern California coast, crews have largely contained a brush fire that charred some 1,000 acres and prompted officials to evacuate about 20 homes.

Fire crews and equipment have been ferried to the 76 square mile island on hovercraft to tackle the flames, which may have been started by lightning.

To the north, about 800 firefighters worked to contain an 8,000-acre fire in Monterey County that was also started by lightning. Another blaze, which has been burning in Joshua Tree National Park, has been fully contained, the Forest Service said.

California has been sweltering under record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures for much of July, straining the power grid and causing a rising number of deaths.

At least 30 deaths have been blamed on the heat, most of them elderly people living in California's central valley, under its fifth straight day of excessive heat warnings.

Temperatures in parts of central California and inland areas of Los Angeles County have soared to 119 degrees F but weather forecasters expected a slight cooling trend in the next few days.

Source: Reuters

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