Fire crews stop spread of long-running blaze in Southern California forest

Friday, September 29th 2006, 1:21 pm
By: News On 6

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ Fire crews stopped the spread of a massive forest blaze that has burned since Labor Day, and they expect to fully surround it by Monday, officials said Friday.

``There really is no active fire,'' fire spokesman Dan Bastion said. ``The only thing that's going to be burning is some unburned islands of fuel well within the interior.''

The wildfire _ the fifth-largest in California history _ has burned nearly 250 square miles of wilderness since it began with someone burning debris in Los Padres National Forest, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It was 63 percent contained and was expected to be fully surrounded by Monday evening.

Calm wind slowed the flames as crews dug 34 miles of fire lines on Thursday, leaving 19 miles to clear.

``Persistence pays off. You gotta keep pounding on it,'' Bastion said.

Evacuations that had been urged for mountain communities were downgraded to precautionary warnings.

Only Lockwood Valley, on the fire's northwestern edge, remained under recommended evacuation, but no homes were in immediate danger, Bastion said.

Wind was calm Friday at about 5 mph, although the weather remained hot and dry, Bastion said.

More than 4,800 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, which earlier in the week destroyed two barns, two outbuildings, three trailers, a cabin and five vehicles.

Firefighting costs have topped $57.5 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds for some expenses.