Burst of summer rain dampens car-torching California blaze

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2015 5:46 PM

(Reuters) - Firefighters in Southern California, aided by an unusually long burst of rainfall, have dug containment lines around 60 percent of a brush fire that torched 20 vehicles and destroyed eleven homes and outbuildings, the U.S. Forest Service said on Sunday.

The wildfire, which broke out on Friday afternoon in the drought-parched foothills of San Bernardino County, grew from 500 acres (200 hectares) to 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) in a matter of hours, the U.S. Forest Service said.

It held that footprint through Sunday, dampened by a day of light rainfall on Saturday, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lyn Sieliet said.

Fire crews were hoping for more rainfall forecast for Sunday afternoon as they worked to expand containment lines around the rest of the fire perimeter, Sieliet said.

Officials lifted all evacuation orders and road closures on Saturday evening, and people were returning to the communities of Baldy Mesa and Oak Hills, California, Sieliet said.

On Friday, the blaze ripped down a portion of the Interstate 15 freeway that links Southern California and Las Vegas, forcing about 60 drivers to abandon their cars and scramble to safety.

Eighteen cars and two tractor-trailer trucks were destroyed, along with eleven homes and outbuildings, Sieliet said.

A separate, 200-acre wildfire (81-hectare) northwest of San Bernardino, which triggered evacuations of several campgrounds on Saturday, was 40 percent contained and evacuation orders had been lifted on Sunday, authorities said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Scott Malone and Diane Craft)