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All evacuations from Powerhouse fire lifted; blaze 60% contained

All evacuations were lifted for communities near the Powerhouse fire in the Antelope Valley, officials said Tuesday.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that if the conditions continue, we’ll be able to see containment early next week,” said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Tony Akins.

Residents in Lake Elizabeth, Lake Hughes and the Green Valley were allowed to go home Monday afternoon and early Tuesday.

Crews had about two miles of fire line to build Tuesday, Akins said.

The Powerhouse fire, which started last week near a power station in Santa Clarita, has burned 32,032 acres and was 60% contained. More than 2,000 firefighters remain in the area to rein in what up until two days ago was a wind-driven, fast-moving blaze.

Since the weekend, the weather has cooled and winds have weakened, giving firefighters a chance to make some headway. As the flames left the Santa Clarita hills and ran northwest toward Lancaster, firefighters took advantage of the changing fuel and topography, Akins said.

“When it got into the low-lying grass, we were able to put a great number of resources directly on the fire’s edge,” he said.

Firefighters planned on using 11 helicopters to drop water directly on the flames Tuesday. Fixed-wing aircraft that drop down flame retardant ahead of the fire’s path were on standby but not expected to be in the air, Akins said.

The fire has injured three people, destroyed six homes and damaged nine others.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week pledged to help pay up to 75% of the state’s costs associated with fighting the blaze.

When the fire was burning through old chaparral, with layer upon layer of dead growth underneath, it proved difficult to fight. Fire crews found it hard to cut through, officials said, and more water drops from aircraft were needed to extinguish the flames.

"That stuff is so dry it just breaks in your hands," said Chuck Tobias, spokesman for the Fresno Fire Department as he snapped a gray-white twig and crumbled it between his fingers at the fire base camp Monday. "It lights off like a Roman candle."

Fresno firefighters are among those trying to gain control over the blaze.


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