Vast California Wildfire Shows Signs Of Slowing Its Advance

A wildfire that has burned an area the size of New York City slowed its advance through wilderness in Santa Barbara County as flames reached newly constructed firelines, officials said Wednesday.

The fire in Los Padres National Forest burned just 350 acres overnight - well below the thousands of acres scorched in previous days - as the flames hit the firebreaks or ground already blackened and denuded by backfires.

"That has gone a long way to containment," fire spokeswoman Marianne Rauch said.

The blaze has charred 222,907 acres, the equivalent of 348 square miles, and was 79 percent contained Wednesday, Rauch said.

It was still advancing to the northwest through dense chaparral but overall, firefighters were making progress.

Some crews were being pulled from quiet zones of the fire and moved to more active ones.

The fire was about 17 miles north of the Ventura County community of Ojai and 10 miles east of Montecito and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.

Earlier in the week, residents of 30 to 40 ranches in those counties were advised to move large animals out of the area and be prepared to get out themselves.

However, none of those homes were in imminent danger Wednesday.

Sparks from equipment being used to repair a water pipe ignited the blaze north of Los Olivos on July 4.

Meanwhile, firefighters continued to battle two smaller flare-ups as hot weather and dry conditions across Southern California prompted officials to issue "red flag" warnings for fire danger.

An 80-acre wildfire burning in canyons in suburban Hacienda Heights about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles was 80 percent contained.

One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

In the steep San Jacinto Mountains that rise to the west of Palm Springs, a fire that may have been sparked by lightning had spread over 80 acres of pines and was 20 percent contained, said Valerie Baca, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino National Forest.

On Tuesday, the fire destroyed at least six structures at an abandoned youth camp.

The largest fire in modern California history was the 2003 Cedar Fire near San Diego, which burned more than 273,000 acres, destroyed 4,847 structures and killed 15 people.

The Santa Barbara County fire now ranks second in size.


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