Published October 07, 2013
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Firefighters gained ground on a wildfire that burned nearly 4 square miles of dry brush and forced people to evacuate part of Camp Pendleton, while a blaze generating heavy smoke drove some residents from homes in an Orange County canyon community.
The blaze at the Marine Corps coastal base was 20 percent contained as the fire danger subsided with calmer winds late Sunday. A statement from the base said officials expect to contain the fire by Tuesday.
The fire broke out Saturday amid hot, dry and blustery conditions throughout the region. It forced the evacuation of 230 residents from a housing unit near Lake O'Neil, while a power outage at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton prompted the evacuation of about 30 patients.
Nearly 340 firefighters were at the scene. The fire's cause was under investigation.
About 40 miles to the north, a fire sparked in a mulch pile at a nursery near Santiago Canyon in Orange County prompted the evacuation of 23 residents on Sunday.
The fire was not threatening homes and an RV park in the area, but residents were evacuated because of heavy smoke and in case a spot fire is ignited, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.
The blaze burned an outbuilding and quickly charred about 30 acres of surrounding wild vegetation. One firefighter suffered a minor injury.
"Mulch piles get hot, and when a fire breaks out it's hard to douse the flames," Concialdi said.
The powerful Santa Ana winds that kicked up late Thursday subsided by Sunday evening. The fierce winds triggered a red flag warning of extreme fire danger from the National Weather Service, which called the situation the region's "most significant fire weather threat in the past five years."
A peak wind gust of 90 mph was recorded Saturday morning at Laguna Peak in Ventura County.
Wind gusts of 65 mph were reported near the area of a small fire that began Saturday near a key freeway interchange in northern Los Angeles County. The effort to put out the fire brought traffic to a standstill for about 90 minutes.
The driver of a big rig that went off U.S. 101 in Oxnard and crashed into a car dealership said wind was a factor in the crash, police in the Ventura County city said. The crash set off a fire that spread to vehicles in the lot.
Forecasters said the summer-like weather is expected to shift by midweek, when a storm system could bring much cooler temperatures, rain and possible mountain snow to southwest California.