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Firefighters Still Battling Giant Blaze Near Los Angeles, California

34.0N 118.2W

September 3rd, 2009 Category: Fires

California Wildfires, USA - September 2nd, 2009

California Wildfires, USA - September 2nd, 2009

Close-up of fire

Close-up of fire

Firefighters continue to make progress against a giant wildfire that has ravaged a national forest north of Los Angeles as investigators searched for information about how the fire started.

Here, the city of Los Angeles is visible along the shoreline, with the fire in the forests to the north releasing a thick plume of smoke. At the moment the image was taken, the plume appeared to be blowing westward; however winds have also sent a thinner veil of smoke to the southeast.

Officials are still trying to figure out what set off the blaze in the Angeles National Forest that has burned nearly 219 sq miles or 56,717 hectares (140,150 acres), reports the Guardian. An official stated that lightning has been ruled out as a possible cause, and that the fire was human-caused, but it’s not known specifically how it was started or whether it was accidental or arson.

Firefighters have created a perimeter around 22% of the blaze, largely by removing brush with bulldozers and setting controlled burns. Bulldozers still have 95 miles of fire line to build, mostly on the blaze’s eastern front near the San Gabriel Wilderness Area.

The flames crossed the Angeles Crest Highway into the San Gabriel wilderness to the east on September 1st, an official said. Firefighters made progress on fire breaks to the north near Acton and south-west from Altadena to the Sunland neighbourhood.

Since erupting on August 26th (click here for previous article), the blaze has destroyed more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands of people from their homes. Fire officials said 12,000 homes were threatened, but as evacuations are lifted, that number will likely fall.

Officials also were keeping a close eye on the wind, which had been calm overnight but could pick up today and move flames closer to homes and a historic observatory on Mount Wilson. Autumn is the season for the ferocious Santa Ana winds to sweep in from the north-eastern deserts, gaining speed through narrow mountain canyons, sapping moisture from vegetation and pushing flames farther out into the suburbs.

The wildfire season usually doesn’t gather steam until the winds hit in October, but the fire has been driven by dryness instead of wind. The region is in the midst of a three-year drought, and the tinder-dry forest is ripe for an explosive fire.

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