California wildfire that has injured 12 nearly contained

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2013 10:32 PM
California wildfire that has injured 12 nearly contained

(Reuters) - A wind-driven wildfire was nearing full containment on Sunday after raging for five days through brush east of Los Angeles, injuring 11 firefighters and one civilian, state fire officials said.

The so-called Silver Fire erupted south of the Riverside County town of Banning and by Sunday evening had charred some 20,292 acres in the San Jacinto Mountains, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Two of the firefighters suffered minor injuries on Sunday and the other injuries occurred earlier. The extent of their injuries was not immediately available.

The injured civilian was severely burned in the blaze, which has raged since Wednesday through tinder-dry scrub land and grass about 85 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, officials said.

The blaze was about 90 percent contained as of Sunday night. More than 1,400 firefighters continued to construct and improve containment lines helped by water-dropping helicopters and bulldozers.

Full containment is expected on Monday, officials said.

Residents of more than 500 homes had been forced to flee at the peak of the blaze, but evacuation orders for the bulk of those communities, about 20 miles west of the desert resort of Palm Springs, were lifted on Friday evening as the fire threat subsided.

An evacuation remained in effect for several hiking trails and campgrounds in the area. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

The blaze, which destroyed 26 houses and a commercial building and damaged two other homes, is the latest to cause significant property losses during a U.S. summer fire season that experts predict could become one of the worst on record.

Earlier this year, a Colorado wildfire that ranked as that state's most destructive on record ravaged nearly 500 homes and killed two people.

In Arizona, 19 members of an elite firefighting crew died on June 30 while battling a wildfire.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by David Bailey and Stacey Joyce)