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Containment on San Bernardino Mountains wildfire jumps to 65% as Highway 18 reopens

Containment on San Bernardino Mountains wildfire jumps to 65% as Highway 18 reopens
A burned swath of the San Bernardino Mountains left by the Holcomb fire. (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Big Bear Station)

Containment on a wildfire in the San Bernardino Mountains jumped to 65% Friday morning as several days of relatively benign weather with high temperatures and light wind allowed crews to surrounded the blaze on three sides.

The Holcomb fire has burned across 1,562 acres of steep mountain slopes and rugged terrain meant for wild animals like big horn sheep rather than humans. This made the initial attack on the wildfire slow-going, the U.S. Forest Service said.

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The blaze started Monday afternoon and quickly spread across more than 800 acres as unpredictable winds pushed it north and west toward Highway 18 north of Baldwin Lake.

But as a heat wave settled across Southern California over the course of the week, the winds died down and crews wielding hand tools and operating heavy machinery trekked into the forest and methodically built up defenses.

The fire is continuing to burn on its northern face but a perimeter has been set up on its east, south and west sides, said Olivia Walker, a spokeswoman at the fire's incident command center.

The wind should remain light with temperatures gradually cooling in the next few days, which should work in firefighters' favor, she said.

Some of the more than 1,200 firefighters who responded to the blaze have begun to return to their stations, she said.

Highway 18 was opened Friday morning and commuters should reduce their speeds driving in the area because they'll still be sharing the roads with heavy firefighting equipment. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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