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California bush fire halts advance as winds ease

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 10:39pm
 

Winds that fanned a campfire in Santa Ana, California, into a bush fire that destroyed five homes and threatened foothill neighbourhoods east of Los Angeles relented, halting the blaze in its tracks.

The fire swept through 690 hectares of brush in the San Gabriel Mountains early on Thursday but by nightfall had stopped advancing and was 30 per cent contained.

"The weather co-operated quite a bit today. We didn't get the wind ... that we thought," John Tripp, the Los Angeles county fire deputy chief, said.

Authorities planned to reopen evacuated Glendora neighbourhoods, allowing back some of the 2,000 people ordered to leave the area. However, fire engines would remain to guard the area overnight, he added.

The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning of extreme fire danger would remain in effect yesterday evening because of low humidity and the chance of winds gusting up to 50km/h in the foothills and canyons.

The bush fire damaged 17 homes, garages, barns and other buildings, Tripp said.

At least 10 renters were left homeless when the fire destroyed rental units on the historic grounds of a retreat that once was the summer estate of the Singer sewing-machine family. Statues of Jesus and Mary stood unharmed near the blackened ruins. However, the main, 1920s mansion was spared.

Three men in their 20s, including a homeless man, were arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting the blaze by tossing paper into a campfire in the Angeles National Forest.

Glendora Chief Tim Staab said the men were trying to keep warm and the bush fire appeared to have been an accident.

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