More cool weather aids crews fighting Calif. fire

PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) — Cool, moist air that’s sticking around made it easier for thousands of firefighters building containment lines around a destructive wildfire north of Los Angeles, a day after evacuation orders were lifted for nearly 3,000 residents.

Improved weather conditions that include humidity levels in the 30-percent range were expected, though crews still had to watch out for wind gusts that could carry embers, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Ed Gililland.

“We’re always keeping an eye on the weather, but so far things are looking good today,” he said early Tuesday.

A marine layer that moved in Monday helped firefighters catch up with the blaze in the Angeles National Forest that had doubled in size over the weekend and spread rapidly through old, dry brush with help from gusty winds and soaring temperatures.

Some 2,800 people in the rural communities of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth were allowed to return home Monday.

Gregg Johnson evacuated on Saturday with his wife and 12-year-old son after watching the fire race down and surround their mountaintop home.

“Of course I was holding out hope,” he said, “maybe the people who told me my house had burned down were wrong.”

Johnson’s was one of six houses that were destroyed. Nine more were damaged.

The fire that consumed 50 square miles of brush in and around the Antelope Valley was 60 percent contained. Full containment was not expected until next Monday, officials said.

The cause of the fire about 45 northwest of downtown Los Angeles was under investigation. Three firefighters had minor injuries, but no one else was hurt.

Air quality throughout the area was unhealthy for sensitive individuals, especially in the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, according to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Los Angeles County’s director of public health.

Wildfires were also burning in northern New Mexico, Colorado and Alaska.

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