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Firefighters finally getting a handle on wildfires burning across California

Inmate firefighters clear brush ahead of the Maria fire near Santa Paula
Inmate firefighters clear brush ahead of the Maria fire near Santa Paula on Friday.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters Saturday continued to get the upper hand on destructive fires across California.

• The Kincade fire, which has burned 77,000 acres and destroyed 350 structures in Northern California’s wine country, was 72% contained.

• The Maria fire, which has burned nearly 10,000 acres and several structures in rural Ventura County was 30% contained. All evacuations have been lifted.

• The Easy fire in Simi Valley was 95% contained after burning 1,845 acres.

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The Maria fire, for which evacuation orders are still in effect, remains the biggest concern, with hundreds of firefighters still on the scene.

Offshore wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph and humidity below 5% continued to hinder efforts to control the fire Saturday morning, but a shift to weaker onshore wind was expected by midday, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ventura County.

The moister ocean breezes were expected to be about 10 mph and would raise humidity to 20% to 30%, Kittell said.

The wind shift would be good news for firefighters but could also pose problems by pushing the flames in different directions, Kittell said.

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“The plans for the shift can be challenging,” he said.

Red flag warnings remain in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday, but would probably not be required after that, Kittell said.

Drier offshore winds were expected to return later Saturday or early Sunday but at speeds of 10 to 20 mph and with humidity of about 10%.

A spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department said the Maria fire was still only 20% contained late Saturday morning and still threatened 2,500 homes.

Evacuation orders were lifted in parts of Santa Paula.

The cause of the fire is unknown. But Southern California Edison told regulators Friday that it had reenergized a 16,000-volt power line 13 minutes before the fire broke out. Edison had earlier turned off the line due to heavy winds.

Edison has also reported to regulators that its lines might have been involved in the Easy fire as well as the Saddleridge fire that swept the northern San Fernando Valley two weeks ago.

Red flag warnings indicating extreme fire danger remain in effect til 6 p.m. Saturday for the Los Angeles and Ventura county mountains, including the Maria fire area.


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