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Small California Wildfire Forces Evacuation at Marine Base

October 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Evacuation orders remained in place Sunday as crews built containment lines around a wind-driven wildfire that scorched 1,500 acres of dry brush and damaged four buildings at a Southern California military base.

The blaze at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton was 15 percent contained and firefighters were trying to halt its movement toward the northeast, press officer Sgt. Christopher Duncan said.

The fire broke out Saturday amid hot, dry and windy conditions throughout the region. It quickly prompted the evacuation of 230 residents from a housing unit near Lake O'Neil and caused minor damage to four buildings, base officials said.

Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was not threatened by the fire, but a power outage prompted officials to evacuate about 30 patients to other hospitals in the area and stop accepting new patients. Service at the hospital was restored by late Saturday, but the transferred patients remained at the new locations.

Officials would meet Sunday evening to assess whether to lift evacuation orders, Duncan said.

More than 200 firefighters were at the scene. The fire's cause was under investigation.

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About 40 miles to the north, crews were battling a vegetation fire that was sparked in a mulch pile at a nursery near Santiago Canyon in Orange County. It was sending up a huge plume of smoke visible for miles around. The blaze, reported late Sunday morning, quickly spread to surrounding wild vegetation, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. No homes were threatened.

Water-dropping aircraft were called in as winds fanned the flames. Although wind speeds were predicted to drop later Sunday afternoon, peak gusts of 22 miles per hour were reported at midday.

In northern Los Angeles County, traffic in the Newhall Pass came to a standstill Saturday when a 15-acre fire began on a hillside north of the junction of Interstate 5 and State Route 14. The freeways were closed in all directions for about 90 minutes, according to City News Service.

Wind gusts of 65 mph were reported near the area of the fire.

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To the west in Ventura County, a big rig went off U.S. 101 in Oxnard and crashed into a car dealership parking lot, causing a fire that spread to 16 vehicles in the lot, officials said.

The truck driver said wind was a factor in the crash, Oxnard police Cmdr. Martin Myer said. He said strong winds also fanned a fire Friday night that destroyed four buildings in an Oxnard complex and displaced 78 people.

In Orange County, winds knocked down a power line in Tustin on Saturday morning, touching off several small brush fires that caused damage to one home, fire officials said. Trees were also reported down across Southern California.

The powerful Santa Anas kicked up late Friday and a National Weather Service red flag warning of extreme fire danger for the entire region says the wind event will last until Sunday evening.

A peak wind gust of 90 mph was recorded Saturday morning at Laguna Peak in Ventura County.

The weather service called the situation the region's "most significant fire weather threat in the past five years." Temperatures were unseasonably high, reaching in the 90s in many coastal communities, with humidity levels in the single digits.

MORE: A Look Back At This Year's Western Wildfires

Wildfires Burn in the West

Wildfires Burn in the West

Associated Press

A structure is left destroyed by the Ponderosa Fire near Manton, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012.

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  • Fire Imagery from the Suomi NPP Satellite
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