Mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted for hundreds of homes and businesses in San Diego and Santa Barbara counties, where wildfires have been burning since Tuesday, officials announced.
Calmer winds overnight allowed firefighters to make "good progress" on the Bernardo fire, which had burned roughly 850 acres as of Tuesday night. The fire was just 5% contained, but according to an update posted by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, strong winds died down overnight, "which allowed firefighters to make good progress on putting out the flames."
Evacuations in Fairbanks Ranch and Eastern Rancho Santa Fe were lifted as authorities investigated the cause of the blaze.
An aggressive response by firefighters from several agencies was credited with preventing flames from damaging any homes.
"We think we have a pretty good handle on it," San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said at an evening media briefing.
Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara County, a majority of evacuation orders were lifted overnight as crews battled a wind-driven brush fire that at last count had burned 700 acres.
Only residents on San Miguelito Road south of West Willow Avenue remain under evacuation orders, KEYT reported. Nearly 700 firefighters are fighting the blaze. The cause of that fire also remains under investigation, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department reported.
Across Southern California, fire agencies were beefing up crews and setting up equipment in wilderness areas because of Santa Ana winds and hot weather expected to last for several days.
Dry northeast winds, along with dangerously low relative humidity and temperatures above 100 degrees in some areas, are forecast for inland and mountain areas across the region, according to the National Weather Service.
Earlier in the week, the agency issued red-flag fire warnings, high-wind warnings and heat advisories from Ventura to San Diego counties, and the U.S. Forest Service said it was assigning 24-hour staffing for crews on more than two dozen fire engine and lightweight brush patrol vehicles across the Angeles National Forest.
Some roads were closed in the forest area because of the fire danger, including Glendora Mountain and Mount Baldy.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department has more than 70 additional firefighters on duty across the county, Inspector Tony Akins said. The department also has already deployed extra fire engines, brush patrol vehicles and water tender trucks in Agoura Hills and Malibu.
Akins said a Cal Fire strike team has also been assigned to county Fire Station 126 in Santa Clarita.