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SANTA PAULA : Fire Chars 50 Acres of Dry River Bottom

A fire that consumed about 50 acres of bamboo and other brush in the Santa Clara River bottom Sunday night threatened a few airplanes parked at the nearby Santa Paula Airport and forced some homeless people to vacate their makeshift dwellings.

Firefighters with the Ventura County Fire Department expected to contain the fire by 10 p.m. Sunday and bring it under control by midnight, a spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for the county Fire Department said that the fire was deliberately set and that the investigation was continuing.

Twelve fire engines from the county Fire Department and Santa Paula Fire Department worked to extinguish the fire with the help of two bulldozers, four hand crews and a helicopter. The fire began sometime after 4:15 p.m.

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The 134 firefighters had little trouble with Santa Ana winds that had diminished to about 5 m.p.h. when the fire started and stopped altogether after dark, said Battalion Chief Rubin Gomez. But a department spokeswoman said it took firefighters longer than usual to put out the blaze because bamboo is difficult to extinguish.

Gomez said he had requested that the airport stop its operations. About five planes landed after the fire began, changing their flight patterns to fly over the city instead of the burning area, pilots said.

Perry A. Schreffler, a retired Air Force lieutenant with a private hangar at the airport, said a group of homeless people has makeshift homes in the river bottom. “There will be a lot more homeless tonight,” he said.


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