Clouds Cover Site Of Stubborn SoCal Wildfire

Crews fighting a huge, stubborn fire in the Santa Barbara County wilderness worked under cloudy skies Sunday and a threat of lightning that could spark a new blaze.

Forecasts called for partly or mostly cloudy skies through the weekend.

The cooler weather and higher humidity could slow the flames but also carried the chance of lightning that could ignite dense chaparral.

"There's been some clouds and some moisture," fire spokesman Larry Griffith said.

"It'll be good as long as we don't get some lightning to start another fire."

In Los Angeles County, a brushfire erupted Sunday afternoon in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, forcing about two dozen hikers to evacuate, county fire Capt. Mike Brown said.

The 10-acre fire began shortly before 1:20 p.m. beneath some electrical high-tension wires in the foothills above the community of Altadena, Brown said. No homes were immediately threatened.

The fire's cause was undetermined but was listed as suspicious because hikers were in the area, he said.

The fire scene was about 17 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

A flash flood watch was in effect through Monday morning for Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties as moisture from last week's Hurricane Dean spread through Southern and Central California.

However, little or no rain was predicted in Los Padres National Forest, where the fire has burned for about seven weeks.

The so-called Zaca Fire was 85 percent contained after burning 241,550 acres, or about 377 square miles of steep backcountry.

No buildings were in imminent danger but about 20 homes and some 46 commercial and outbuildings were in its path.

The flames were about a half-mile from an area west of Highway 33 in the forest.

For the past several days, officials had recommended that residents evacuate that area, although it was unclear whether anyone had left.

On Saturday, a section of the fire near Highway 33 jumped a containment line but crews managed to halt its spread.

Firefighters were working on that hot spot Sunday.

Amid the scorched lands, there also were unburned islands of brush that could flare up, Griffith said.

The fire was about 15 miles away from the community of Ojai and did not threaten any other large communities, officials said.

Despite its size, the fire has only destroyed one structure, an outbuilding.

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

About 2,500 firefighters, aided by aircraft, were fighting the fire.

Costs have reached $102.6 million.

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