Wildfire Scorches 1,200 Acres on California Island; Blazes Continue Inland

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A wildfire sparked by lightning had scorched 1,200 acres of brush on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California Sunday while several blazes continued to burn in the mountains and desert east of Los Angeles.

Hundreds of firefighters and at least 20 fire engines were taken to the island on boats and military hovercraft from Camp Pendleton during the night because lightning made helicopters too dangerous, said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Scott Ross.

The fire had covered nearly two square miles of the island with an area of just 76 square miles. It grew rapidly during the night, going from 60 acres to 1,200 acres in about two hours, but conditions were good for firefighters Sunday morning.

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"The weather is real favorable for us right now, the winds are calm," Ross said. "We are able to get our helicopters doing water drops."

The blaze was one of at least four that were first reported just after 8 p.m. Saturday night near the Catalina Airport, Ross said.

Some homes had been threatened during the night, but were not in danger Sunday morning and no evacuations orders were in effect, Ross said.

Meanwhile, firefighters battling a 447-acre blaze in the Cajon Pass that clogged traffic on a major freeway hoped to have it contained Sunday despite soaring temperatures and low humidity.

The fire, which caused the evacuation of two ranches and burned several uninhabited structures, started about 11:30 a.m. Saturday near a truck ramp on Interstate 15, said San Bernardino National Forest spokeswoman Robin Prince.

It was 50 percent contained by Saturday night. The cause is under investigation.

Fire crews were taking on a new lightning-sparked blaze in the Mojave Desert that began less than 12 hours after they overcame steep terrain and erratic winds to fully contain a small fire less than three miles away.

The new fire had burned 400 acres since starting at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday night near the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, said Anne Luker, a dispatcher for the San Bernardino National Forest.

About 200 firefighters worked to surround the earlier fire covering about 224 acres Prince said.

The fire was among a half-dozen started by lightning Thursday in wilderness areas of inland Southern California, where naturally occurring wildfires have scorched vast areas this month. The other new fires went out.

Elsewhere, the Heart-Millard complex of fires, which had burned 24,695 acres was 63 percent contained, Prince said.

In some wilderness areas, the fire will be allowed to burn freely while crews make sure it stays far away from areas with houses.

The adjoining Sawtooth fire remained contained at 61,700 acres. It destroyed 58 houses and mobile homes, caused 17 injuries and killed a man when it swept through the Mojave Desert after being ignited by lightning July 9.