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200 Near California Wildfire Evacuated

October 23, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A 2,000-acre brush fire at Camp Pendleton led to the evacuation of 200 nearby residents Wednesday in one of several blazes across Southern California that firefighters tried to stop before Santa Ana winds arrive.

Hundreds of firefighters had to cope with high temperatures that helped spur five wildfires, burning more than 6,800 acres. The region has had record, triple-digit temperatures, and warm weather is expected to continue the next few days.

Officials also were bracing for the season’s first Santa Ana winds, which could help the fires spread, said Bill Hoffer, a weather service specialist. The winds were expected to begin Wednesday night.

``It lowers relative humidities. It causes a real drying effect,″ he said.

The Camp Pendleton brush fire affected residents of De Luz Canyon, just east of the military installation, said Jeff Wenger, a base spokesman.

Residents were asked, not ordered, to evacuate _ but most decided to leave.

``The fire was just one ridge away,″ Wenger said.

Officials said the blaze started on a training range about noon Tuesday, apparently sparked by ammunition used in military exercises. Camp Pendleton is about 50 miles north of San Diego.

Meanwhile, a blaze in the Reche Canyon area of Riverside County that began Tuesday afternoon destroyed three homes, said Jane Scribner of the California Department of Forestry. It had burned about 2,360 acres and was 40 percent contained, she said. Crews were expected to contain it by Friday.

Fire officials initially said six homes were destroyed in the area but revised figures Wednesday.

``Everything is gone,″ said Guy Lagard, whose mobile home was burned. ``Seventeen years. All I have left is the clothes on my back. The flames were leaping up the slope. ... The wind was so strong and the fire was so intense.″

About 100 other homes were still threatened. Property damage was estimated at $2 million, Scribner said.

To the northeast, another wildfire had charred 2,400 acres at the north end of Fontana in San Bernardino County but was burning away from homes, said fire spokeswoman Tricia Abbas. The cause had not been determined. No injuries or damage was reported.

Also Wednesday, a fire quickly scorched about five acres and burned uphill in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, said county Fire Capt. Mark Savage. No structures were threatened, he said.

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