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Crews battling Powerhouse fire dig in for another day of heat, wind

Firefighters battling the Powerhouse fire in Santa Clarita will endure another day of high heat and strong winds through the Antelope Valley on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-80s with wind gusts up to 45 mph in the hills and valleys south of Lake Hughes, where the wildfire burning since Thursday has scorched at least 22,242 acres and is 20% contained.

Crews will get a brief respite in the morning as a layer of cool, moist air settles over the area, but that will burn off in the afternoon, said National Weather Service meteorologist Curt Kaplan.

Officials estimate that it will be at least another week before the fire is fully contained.

Crews on Sunday night planned to focus on the northern areas of the fire zone, where the flames had spread most rapidly earlier in the day. Bulldozers and hand crews were deployed in an effort to expand containment lines.

Knowing how unpredictable the wind had been throughout the day, crews remained vigilant. “As quickly as it died off, it can pick up again,” said Kern County Fire Department spokesman Sean Collins.

The cost of fighting the fire has already reached $2.7 million, Collins said. Six homes have been destroyed and nine others damaged. More than 1,000 other structures remain threatened, officials said.

Collins said that damage assessment teams were out in the area to see if additional structures or homes had been burned.

More than 1,000 homes in the Lake Hughes and Elizabeth Lake areas were still under evacuation orders. A Red Cross evacuation center was operating at Marie Kerr Park at 39700 30th Street West in Palmdale. For more information about evacuations, residents can call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Palmdale at (661) 272-2400.

At the base camp Sunday night, ash-covered trucks dropped off firefighters coming in for a meal and to get some rest. A plume of smoke could be seen rising from the fire.

Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Danny Novak, a 29-year-veteran, had been out at the fire since 8 p.m. Saturday night and said the winds and heat from the flames were intense. 

"It just looked like what you would imagine hell would look like," said Novak, after finishing a dinner of chicken and noodles.

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Erratic winds fuel nearly 20,000-acre Powerhouse fire

Powerhouse fire being fought by more than 2,000 personnel

christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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