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As triple-digit temps and winds hit the Southland, firefighters keep battling nearly 8,000-acre Sherpa fire

Despite winds blowing 50 mph and triple-digit heat this weekend, firefighters made gains on a wildfire that has burned more than 12 square miles of forest in Santa Barbara County and Los Padres National Forest since last week, officials said Monday.

The Sherpa fire was reportedly 54% contained and had burned 7,893 acres since it started Wednesday afternoon near Refugio Road in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Residents in Refugio, Venadito, Las Flores and El Capitan canyons have been under a mandatory evacuation since shortly after the fire began to grow.

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The fire also burned a small water treatment building at El Capitan state beach, fire officials said, and damaged avocado, lemon and olive crops. At one point, the fire forced the closure of the 101 Freeway.

"The greater danger of the fire is always at night here because of the 'sundowner' winds," said Costa Dillon, an information officer stationed at the command post on Sunday.

Those conditions are expected to continue Monday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

A red flag warning has been issued for Southern California through Tuesday morning. Temperatures are expected to hover in the triple digits in Los Angeles and remain in the 90s near the Sherpa fire, authorities said.

The blaze is the largest active fire in California, according to state and federal data.

In San Diego County, a wildfire fueled by dry brush and sweltering temperatures has scorched 1,500 acres just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and prompted mandatory evacuations for the entire east county community of Potrero.

About 25 homes south of state Route 94 and east of state Route 188, near where the fire initially sparked about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, were also evacuated.

In Silver Lake, a fire broke out Sunday that threatened homes and forced the closure of the 2 Freeway for several hours.

The fire started near the intersection of Lake View Avenue and Allesandro Way – the cause was under investigation – and pushed northwest by winds, Los Angeles fire officials said. Nearly 200 firefighters responded as a helicopter swooped over the freeway, dropping fire retardant.

Crews needed about 45 minutes to get the fire under control. Two homes on Corralitas Drive were damaged along with three sheds on nearby properties, said David Ortiz, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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