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In brief: Residents return home after deadly wildfire

Guthrie, Okla. – Residents in an Oklahoma community where a wildfire killed one person, burned thousands of acres and destroyed at least six homes returned to survey the damage Monday as firefighters continued to battle the stubborn blaze.

The fire in Guthrie, about 35 miles north of Oklahoma City, went awry Sunday and swept through the parched countryside with wind gusts at 31 mph. Fire officials said Monday afternoon that the blaze was about 75 percent contained and they are investigating to determine whether any criminal conduct occurred when it was set. A burn ban was not in place at the time.

Forecasters say the fire danger will get worse before it gets better, though, with the weather to stay hot and windy. Temperatures are to reach 100 today with daytime wind gusts to steadily grow stronger.

Authorities said the man who died in the fire Sunday night had refused to leave his mobile home. Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said 37 firefighters were treated for heat-related issues.

Chinese fishermen airlifted to hospital

San Diego – U.S. Air Force rescuers on Monday hoisted two badly burned Chinese fishermen from a Venezuelan boat hundreds of miles off Mexico’s Pacific coast to take them to a San Diego hospital.

The two were among 17 Chinese crew members believed aboard a fishing vessel that caught fire and sank in the Pacific Ocean. Two died from burn injuries, seven were determined to be in good condition and six are believed missing, said Maj. Sarah Schwennesen of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.

A Venezuelan fishing vessel spotted a life raft with 11 fishermen Friday and sent a call for help.

Responding to the call, airmen from the Air Force’s 563rd Rescue Group parachuted into the water Saturday afternoon and used inflatable boats to reach the Venezuelan vessel.

Rescuers treated the two burn victims, stabilizing them enough that they could be hoisted into helicopters and then taken to a hospital in San Diego. Schwennesen said the two fishermen were due to arrive at the University of California, San Diego’s regional burn unit Monday night.

Construction site fire closes Interstate 15

Hesperia, Calif. – Interstate 15 in Hesperia is expected to remain closed in both directions for up to two days after a fire was accidentally ignited by a worker at a bridge construction site Monday.

The freeway – Southern California’s main connector to Las Vegas – was closed around 1:30 p.m. because of falling debris.

Officials said drivers should stay away from the Cajon Pass, which is just south of the area of Interstate 15 closed by the fire. Traffic was backed up 6 miles to the south and up to 20 miles to the north Monday evening.

The blaze was started when a construction worker’s blowtorch accidentally ignited the wooden supports of the Ranchero Road overpass bridge, said San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins.

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze in windy conditions, with limited access to water, and high danger that the wooden skeleton of the football-field-size bridge would collapse.

By Monday night most flames were out aside from some smoldering; firefighters were expected to remain throughout the night, said Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga.


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