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Brush fire jams 5 Freeway; new fire burning in San Diego County

National Weather Service

A brush fire jammed the 5 Freeway in Newhall on Saturday afternoon as Southern California remained in the grip of dry, powerful Santa Ana winds.

The blaze broke out at the 5-14 interchange. It burned 15 acres and now appears contained. The 5 Freeway was closed in both directions for a while, but some lanes have since been reopened. 

Still, the California Highway Patrol urged people to avoid the area; winds there were gusting at up to 73 mph, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

A fire was also reported near the 2-134 freeway interchange in Eagle Rock but it was quickly knocked down.

Calfire said it was also sending choppers and crews to battle a fire that broke out at Camp Pendleton. Photos showed a large plume of smoke that was visible from parts of northern San Diego County.

The National Weather Service extended a red-flag alert for most of L.A. County through Sunday evening.

Wind gusts hit 90 mph in Laguna Peak in Ventura County on Saturday morning and 63 mph in Newhall Pass. The gusts were less intense closer to the ocean: Leo Carrillo Beach had 37 mph gusts. Relative humidity plunged to as low as 5%.

The National Weather Service issued a wind warning through Saturday evening.

The forecast for warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds through the weekend created what the weather service called the "highest wildfire threat we have seen in years."

One fire began about 3:30 p.m. Friday in Oxnard, where authorities responded to a structure blaze on South Oxnard Boulevard. No injuries were reported, said Oxnard Police Department Watch Cmdr. Marty Meyers.

About 90 minutes later, a second fire broke out in brush along Santiago Creek in the city of Orange. The fire jumped the creek and moved toward the Lake Condos development before an air attack put it out, officials said.

A few trees caught fire, but no other damage was reported.

The cause was under investigation.

"Our helicopter did an outstanding job keeping the fire away from houses," said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. "It saved property."

City of Orange spokesman Paul Sitkoff said the department would remain on patrol "throughout the evening as the fire risk is still high throughout the county."

About the same time, a third fire raced up a brushy hillside toward homes in Walnut. The Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatched two teams of engines, as well as water-dropping helicopters, and extinguished the fire short of the homes, said Michael Pittman, a Fire Department dispatch supervisor.

Two fixed-wing SuperScoopers headed to the fire were sent back before they arrived, he said.

Pittman said Fire Department staffing was 20% to 30% higher than usual, with additional firefighting equipment on hand.

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