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Wildfires Force Thousands to Evacuate Across Southern California

Firefighters Sunday continued to battle two raging wildfires in San Bernardino and San Diego counties that forced nearly 2,000 people to evacuate.

The larger of the two blazes burned 15,433 acres of dense, dry bush in the San Bernardino National Forest and was 12 percent contained. Authorities initially said the Butler 2 Fire charred 18,000 acres, but revised the figure after nighttime infrared mapping showed a smaller fire than what was reported.

About 340 residents were under mandatory orders to leave the Fawnskin area and another 1,200 voluntarily left their homes in the resort community of Green Valley Lake, Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Beckley said.

However, cooler temperatures were expected to aid firefighters Sunday and the fire was headed in a northwest direction away from the homes, Beckley said. The fire was at least at least 10 miles from the nearest desert community.

"Right now, it doesn't appear they're in much danger," she said. "The fire would have to travel quite a bit."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County on Saturday, clearing the way for state government assistance with costs related to the fire.

The fire, which remained under investigation, burned several outbuildings at a campground. About 1,800 firefighters were aided by 12 fixed-wing aircraft, 27 hand crews and 15 bulldozers.

The fire is called the Butler 2 fire because it was burning near the site of the first Butler fire, which was sparked by lightning Sept. 1.

In eastern San Diego County, a wildfire erupted Saturday northeast of Julian, leading to the evacuation of about 400 people from the nearby subdivision of Whispering Pines.

The Angel Fire, which grew to 1,000 acres overnight, was 20 percent surrounded. One vacation home was destroyed and five outbuildings were damaged. Full containment was expected by Tuesday.

New evacuation orders were issued for ranches and campgrounds along state Route 78.

Residents in the southern part of Whispering Pines were allowed to return to their homes Saturday night, but the northern section remained under mandatory evacuation.

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