May 5, 2013 in Nation/World

Cooler weather aids fire crews

Associated Press
 
Cost put at $4.5 million

The estimated cost of fighting the massive Springs fire in Ventura County in Southern California stood at $4.5 million Saturday and was continuing to rise, officials said. Assisted by water-dropping helicopters and planes, roughly 2,000 firefighters from across California and neighboring states battled the 3-day-old wildfire Saturday.

CAMARILLO, Calif. – A big cool-down in weather calmed a huge wildfire burning in Southern California coastal mountains Saturday, and firefighters worked to cut miles of containment lines while conditions were favorable.

High winds and withering hot, dry air were replaced by the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.

“The fire isn’t really running and gunning,” said Tom Kruschke, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman.

The 43-square-mile blaze at the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains was 56 percent surrounded.

The humidity level rose so much that an overnight effort to burn away fuel at one section of the fire did not work well, Kruschke said.

Despite the favorable conditions, evacuation orders remained in place for residences in several areas.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters using engines, bulldozers and aircraft worked to corral the blaze.

Firefighting efforts were focused on the fire’s east side, rugged canyons that are a mix of public and private lands, Kruschke said.

The National Weather Service said an approaching low pressure system would bring a 20 percent chance of showers this afternoon, with the likelihood increasing into the night and on Monday.

“Anything we get is going to help us,” Kruschke said.

Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out Thursday and quickly moved through neighborhoods of Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks has caused damage to just 15 homes, though it has threatened thousands.

The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year – about 200 more than average.

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