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Wildfire threat high in Southland this summer

A vegetation fire burns in the Inland Empire.
June 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Firefighters on Monday continued battling brush fires in Cabazon, Beaumont and San Bernardino that collectively burned more than 2,500 acres.

The fires, all of which broke out over the weekend, demonstrate the extreme conditions expected in this year's fire season. Southern California received half the normal amount of rain this winter. Fire officials predicted a drier and warmer summer.

"This year, the rainfall has been below normal, so we have the dead fuel from last year and we have the dead fuel from this year," said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

So far, there have been twice as many fires as compared to the same time last year.

  • The most recent blaze broke out in Cabazon around 9:15 p.m. Sunday near Desert View and Cottonwood roads. It charred about 367 acres and was 40 percent contained as of 3:30 p.m. Monday. Full containment was expected by 6 p.m. No injuries were immediately reported and no structures were damaged. About 280 firefighters were on scene. Authorities said voluntary evacuations have been lifted. The cause of the fire remains was being investigated.

  • A brush fire in the Beaumont-Banning area was expected to be contained by 6 a.m. Tuesday, with full control expected by 6 p.m. Officials originally predicted full containment by 6 p.m. Monday, but revised that estimate mid-day. The fire was first reported Saturday afternoon. At least 445 firefighters, aided by five air tankers and five water-dropping helicopters, were fighting the fire. The blaze blackened 2,200 acres and was 70 percent contained Monday morning. No homes were threatened, according to officials.

  • In San Bernardino, a brush fire temporarily shut down a section of the 210 Freeway and forced officials to evacuate a nearby apartment building. Investigators said the fire started just before 6 p.m. Sunday after embers fell from a burning palm tree.

On Monday, fire chiefs from throughout California and the U.S Forest Service met to discuss pooling their resources to attack wildfires early on. The state's budget crisis means less money to battle large-scale fires, but mutual aid agreements between fire agencies will try to fill the gaps.

"The Fire Service, all the partners will bring the offense, but we expect that you, as homeowners residents in California, bring the defense," said Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.

Fire officials said dry brush not typically seen until mid-July is a concern. They warn residents to clear defensible space if they live in mountain areas or areas prone to fire.

A red-flag warning was in effect in inland areas of Southern California. The warning was in effect through 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Antelope Valley.

Several elements made for dangerous conditions, including strong winds, low humidity and temps in the 90s.

View photos of the brush fire that erupted near Beaumont.

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