SoCal Blaze Threatens 2.5K Homes, Buildings

But firefighters are making progress against the Maria Fire
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2019 5:30 PM CDT
Crews Make Headway on Big SoCal Blaze
Smoke from the Maria Fire billows above Santa Paula, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Calmer weather allowed crews to increase containment on wildfires after a three-week siege of gusts fanned blazes across California and led utilities to cut power to prevent winds from blowing branches into electric...   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(Newser) – Authorities lifted evacuation orders for a farm community Saturday as firefighters make progress on a large wildfire in Southern California that continues to threaten about 2,500 homes and buildings, the AP reports. Ventura County officials allowed an unknown number of residents in Somis to return home Saturday morning after firefighters contained 20% of the Maria Fire, which has burned nearly 15 square miles and forced nearly 11,000 people to evacuate. While fire activity subsided overnight, winds and skin-cracking low humidity were expected to enter their fourth day Saturday and make another difficult day for firefighters. Moreover, an unexpected area of clouds moved in from the south, threatening to bring lightning strikes and wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph over the region.

Police in Santa Monica urged beachgoers to seek shelter indoors after lightning was reported over the city. Crews battled to keep the flames away from orchards and farms in the rural area. The fire erupted on a hilltop northwest of Los Angeles on Thursday during what had been expected to be the tail end of gusty Santa Ana winds. The cause was under investigation but there was a troubling possibility that an electrical line might have been involved—as such lines have been at other recent fires. Southern California Edison said Friday that it re-energized a 16,000-volt power line 13 minutes before the fire erupted in the same area. Edison and other utilities shut off power to hundreds of thousands amid concerns that high winds could cause power lines to spark and start fires.

(Read more wildfires stories.)

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