Cool, Wet Weather Helps Firefighters Get Handle on Blaze

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A light early-morning drizzle and an overcast sky Saturday brought relief to the 1,100 firefighters who have been battling a raging brush fire that has ravaged the rugged countryside in San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties since Wednesday.

The fire, which was sparked by military maneuvers in the northernmost portion of Camp Pendleton, burned more than 11,000 acres by midday Saturday and was only 48% contained, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Norm Machado said. Four firemen suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze.

Machado said that the fall-like weather that developed in the Southland slowed the fire's progress and allowed firefighters to regain a measure of control that was lost on Friday afternoon.

The blaze has been confined largely to uninhabited regions of Camp Pendleton, the Cleveland National Forest and South Orange County. So far, fire officials said, there has been no loss of property and no civilian injuries.

But two U.S. Forest Service firefighters were taken to Samaritan Hospital in San Clemente Friday, Forest Service dispatcher Dolores Fremter said. One was suffering chest pains, while the other had dislocated a shoulder. Their names and conditions were not immediately known.

Saturday, one Orange County firefighter cut a knee and was taken to Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo where he was treated and released. A fourth firefighter was treated at the scene for a minor burn, Fremter said.

Friday, the fire advanced more than three miles into the deep canyon, burning up acres of dry brush before the wind died down again.

"There's been no increase in the size of the perimeter since then," Machado said. "The light rain and high humidity has really helped us a lot."

Fire officials predicted that they would not contain the widespread brush fire for at least the next 48 hours. The two hottest spots continue to be in the Bluewater Canyon and the La Paz Canyon in Orange County.

Machado said that the often steep and inaccessible terrain has made it nearly impossible to move heavy firefighting equipment and men near the fire line to clear away dry chaparral.

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