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Fire crews contain 82 percent of Crown Fire

July 31, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Officials said they've made significant headway on the dimming Crown wildfire and continue to gain the upper hand as 82 percent of it has been contained.The fire laid down overnight after scorching 22 square miles, and there was concern that rising temperatures and gusty winds would fuel the fire. However, officials reported Saturday afternoon that the fire is 82 percent contained. No open fires were visible, just smoldering embers which have slowed down the fire.

"Crews went out last night and did some great work trying to complete more lines and also trying to take care of what we call 'cat eyes' which are embers within the perimeter of the fire, so there will be much more work being done there today," said Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Roland Sprewell. "But of course we're not going to rest on our laurels today...we're going to be vigilantly watching the winds, especially in the ridge and down in the valleys."

Strong winds were a concern Saturday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, Saturday's temps hit the 90s in Palmdale with winds reaching 40 mph in the valley areas and 45 mph on ridge tops. The wind was predicted to reach its peak around 2 p.m.

Sprewell was careful to emphasize the difference between containment and control, explaining that "containment" characterizes there is a line in the fire in the form of dozers or hand crews, whereas "control" is equivalent of having the fire completely knocked down.

All evacuations for the Crown Fire have been lifted as of Friday night, but it's still a tense time for residents.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said residents of 500 homes in Rancho Vista have been told to "shelter in place" -- that is, to remain in their homes and heed any future warnings -- until further notice.

In addition, there is a hard closure on Elizabeth Lake Road between Godde Hill Road and 25th Street West, in the east Leona Valley area on the south side of the California Aqueduct. The hard closure means any residents who evacuated the area will be unable to get back in until the closure is lifted.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for homes in the Leona Valley, Ana Verde, Ritter Ranch and Rancho Vista area, but they were lifted Friday morning. The Red Cross remained at the evacuation center to provide any assistance that is needed. Voluntary evacuations were still recommended by authorities Friday afternoon.

No injuries were reported .The cause of the fire is under investigation, but investigators are talking to workers in Agua Dulce who were trying to remove a tire rim near the origin of the fire.

Since the inception of the fire on Thursday afternoon, an all-out air assault was launched to kill the fire. The arsenal includes a Boeing 747 supertanker, DC-10 tanker, several fixed-wing aircraft and heli-tankers and helicopters. Bulldozers, water-tenders and 17,000 firefighting personnel have also been battling the fire.

The fire swept through the country side west of Palmdale quickly Thursday night into Friday morning, pushed by winds traveling 20 miles per hour. Three trailers, a single-family home, three outbuildings, two detached garages, one hay barn and one unknown building were destroyed in the fire, officials said. One residence suffered roof damage.

With the Crown Fire threatening power lines Friday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) issued an energy conservation alert, asking residents to reduce their power usage as much as possible Friday -- as long as it does not compromise their health or safety.

A DWP spokesman says the utility has minimized power imports on a transmission line that passes through the Leona Valley, and is generating power at closer plants to deliver energy to the city. The DWP power system was functioning normally on Friday and no fire outages were reported, but the utility is asking its customers to reduce all unnecessary demand on the power system.

Homes along the south side of Elizabeth Lake Road near Highland were threatened earlier, but as of Saturday morning, all homes are reported to be safe.

The fire has burned four homes, five outhouses and threatened more than 2,000 structures.


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