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Rain helps with Springs fire but could bring 'minor debris issues'

ArsonNational Weather Service

Two days of rain could wash debris through the Ventura County fire area following a fast-moving wildfire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said.

About half an inch of rain is forecast for Ventura and Los Angeles counties through Tuesday, a welcome change for firefighters battling a blaze near Camarillo that has burned at least 28,000 acres.

However, all that water-loosened soil could bring “minor debris issues,” for firefighters, said Curt Kaplan of the National Weather Service.

PHOTOS: Camarillo brush fire

Hundreds of battle-weary firefighters made the transition to mop-up mode over the weekend as the Springs fire in Ventura County was 75% contained, with full containment expected Monday.

Several engine companies were sent home Sunday as hand crews worked to establish a fire break more than a mile long in the Hidden Valley area to complete containment of the blaze, which burned from Thousand Oaks to the ocean.

Ventura County Fire Capt. Scott Dettore said the fire would be fully contained “probably by Monday evening."

MAP: Southland fires

Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said Sunday that they had ruled out arson and instead believed the blaze was started by a small "undetermined roadside ignition of grass/debris."

The fire started Thursday at the edge of the southbound lanes of U.S. 101 near Thousand Oaks, about a quarter-mile north of the truck scales on the Conejo Grade, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

"The area is considered a collection point for fuels and ignition sources. Due to the topography, the fire quickly spread, fanned by strong east winds," the fire agency said in a statement.

At its peak, the blaze threatened about 4,000 homes, authorities said. Fifteen houses were damaged but none were destroyed. Six firefighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries.

Firefighters got a welcome reprieve Saturday with a dramatic change in the weather that brought significantly lower temperatures and high humidity. The humidity was so high Saturday, firefighters had trouble setting backfires.

All mandatory evacuations were lifted, and by Sunday morning the area was blanketed by some drizzle.

At the peak of the fire, more than 1,800 fire personnel battled the blaze. Firefighters and ground crews were deployed from across California and other states, including Oregon, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico, because officials worried about the possibility of multiple fires in the region.

In an update posted Sunday morning at the command center near Camarillo Airport, fire officials reported "minimal fire activity" and that "remaining firefighters continue to construct control lines, mop up operations and patrol the fire perimeter."

Several wildfires continued to burn around California. A day-old fire in steep forestland in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County has burned 650 acres and on Sunday was declared 75% contained.

The blaze, named the Gorgonio fire, was south of Banning, a town of 30,000 in the mountain pass between Riverside and Palm Springs. The blaze has not threatened homes and no evacuations were ordered, according to Cal Fire.

The blaze forced the closure of California 243, which winds through the San Jacinto Mountains and connects Banning with Idyllwild. The route, closed between Wesley Street in Banning and at Poppet Flats Road in the mountains, was partially reopened Sunday.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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