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SoCal firefighters on high alert

July 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Dry brush and scorching temperatures have local firefighters on high alert as the conditions across Southern California are prime for wildfires.Crews battled at least two blazes over the weekend, one of them suspicious.

A brushfire broke out around 4 p.m. Sunday in the hills above La Verne, near the Marshall Canyon Golf Course. The golf course was evacuated as the blaze spread, but no one was hurt and firefighters stopped the flames from reaching nearby homes.

The fire burned nearly 100 acres a brush before firefighters got it under control Sunday night. It is now 100 percent contained, but crews are on standby at the golf course in case the flames erupt again.

Another fast moving fire in Lancaster over the weekend destroyed about 30 acres. Both fires threatened homes, but no structures were damaged.

Arson investigators believe the fire in La Verne was deliberately set because there were multiple ignition points. If you have any information about the fire or any possible suspects, you're asked to call the L.A. county Sheriff's Arson Explosives Unit at (323) 881-7500.

The U.S. Forest Service has raised its fire danger level from "high" to "very high" because of the hot weather and dry conditions.

The Forest Service is also bringing a sea plane with massive water dropping capability to Southern California. The four-engine Martin Mars is a World War II vintage aircraft that has been converted to scoop and drop water on wildfires. The Mars has a 7,200-gallon capacity and carries a mixture of water and gel.

"The aircraft drops its water at 2,600 gallons a second. And that gets us excellent penetration through the canopies in the forests and onto the ground," said Wayne Coulson of the Coulson Flying Tankers.

The Mars is being rented from a company in British Columbia, Canada, and is accompanied by a reconnaissance helicopter. The aircraft will be based at Lake Elsinore, where it is scheduled to land Monday afternoon.

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