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50-Acre Blaze Heats Up Canyon Country

TIMES STAFF WRITER

James Ruddick couldn’t have picked a better spot to get completely drenched.

As a yellow firefighting plane swooped down to dump a sky full of foam on a brush fire Saturday afternoon, Ruddick, garden hose in hand, dug his heels into a ridge line five yards from the flames and let out a battle cry.

“Here it comes, everybody!” yelled Ruddick, 19, as foam splattered all over him. “This is killer!”

Ruddick was among the dozens of people who scrambled out of their homes with garden hoses and shovels to help 200 firefighters battle a 50-acre brush blaze that nearly swept over a parched hillside and into a Canyon Country neighborhood.

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Fueled by strong winds and dangerous fire conditions, the blaze came within 50 feet of some houses. It took 25 engines, three helicopters and two Super Scooper firefighting planes to get the fire under control, said officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Residents in the Sierra Hills housing development off Sierra Highway seemed more thrilled than scared by all the action in their neighborhood. In addition to the people helping fight the fire, dozens gathered at the edge of the ridge that separated homes from the flames sweeping up the brush-covered valley.

As the planes and choppers dumped sheets of foam, covering roofs, cars, people and their dogs in a thick, soapy goo, people in the crowd screamed “Yes!” as if they were at a rock concert and ran around excitedly.

“This is totally cool,” said Leslie Reheis, who lives in a house at the edge of the blaze. “I’ve never been doused with foam before.”

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The fire started about 12:30 p.m.; the cause had not been determined late Saturday. Fire officials said an apartment fire on Scherzinger Lane in Canyon Country may have led to the brush fire, but there were also reports that two boys had been seen playing with matches in the bushes near the apartments, Battalion Chief Daniel Scott said.

Fanned by 25-mph Santa Ana winds, the fire quickly spread through the dry valley and consumed 50 acres of brush before being brought under control in about two hours. No one was hurt and no homes were damaged.

Fire officials said some of the residents endangered themselves by trying to help fight the blaze.

Had the winds changed--as they sometimes do--the situation would have been much more serious, said county Fire Inspector Jerry Meehan.

“These are red-flag conditions, and we would have had to evacuate homes if the fire had changed direction,” Meehan said.

Two other big blazes occurred in the area Saturday.

More than 150 firefighters and four helicopters were sent to extinguish a 20-acre blaze in Lake View Terrace that began at Lopez Canyon Road and Paxton Street about 1 p.m., said Fire Department spokesman Jim Wells.

An hour later, a 7-acre brush fire was sparked by a blazing truck alongside the San Diego Freeway at Getty Center Drive. Forty firefighters put out the fire in about 30 minutes, Wells said.

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Neither fire caused injuries or structural damage.

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Correspondent Sue Fox contributed to this story.


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