Cooler weather helps firefighters battling huge Southern California wildfire, nearly month old

Monday, October 2nd 2006, 8:37 am
By: News On 6

OJAI, Calif. (AP) _ Cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped firefighters Monday as they got closer to fully containing one of the largest wildfires in California history.

The nearly month-old blaze, which at one point threatened the Ventura County communities of Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore, was 95 percent contained, and firefighters said they were confident they would have it fully contained and could keep all embers under control by Monday evening.

The blaze started from a trash fire on Labor Day and spread across 254 square miles of brush and timber, mainly in the Los Padres and Angeles national forests. It destroyed one rural home and damaged another, and burned several barns and sheds, an unoccupied cabin and a camping trailer.

Dry, hot and sometimes windy weather that had helped spread the fire broke during the weekend. Unexpectedly damp weather on Sunday brought scattered showers to the fire area northwest of Los Angeles, with as much as 0.12 of an inch of rain, a fire information statement said.

By early Monday, temperatures in parts of the Los Padres National Forest were in the 40s with humidity in the range of 70 to 80 percent, said fire spokesman Curtis Vincent.

``The weather has definitely been in our favor the last couple of days,'' Vincent said.

On Sunday, a helicopter crashed during a flight to pick up fire retardant and water. Both pilots walked away with minor injuries.

Firefighting costs on that blaze alone have been estimated at more than $70 million.

In the Northwest, a 15-square-mile grass fire along the Columbia River in Washington was no longer an imminent danger to homes Monday. It destroyed two outbuildings during the weekend and sent thick, brown smoke drifting into the town of Bridgeport, Wash.

The fire, about seven miles from town, came within about a half-mile of homes, officials said. Firefighters had completed lines around about half the fire and expect to have it contained by Wednesday, a dispatcher said Monday. Investigators believe it was started by a downed power line.