Calmer winds help firefighters battle wildfire near Los Angeles

By Xinhua,

Los Angeles : With winds calming down, firefighters were working hard to further control a wildfire that terrified thousands residents near Los Angeles, authorities said on Sunday.

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Firefighters were creating a larger fire break, and expect to use significant air resources to battle the fire that had been raging in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys at the weekend.

The fire was 30 percent contained as of Sunday morning. Firefighters said they expected to get all available fixed-wing craft and helicopters up in the air later in the day.

“It’s not as much of a wind-driven fire today,” said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Sam Padilla. “Winds are sustained at15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) per hour with gusts up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour,” he added, saying that high winds on Saturday limited use of air resources.

Though TV helicopters were not showing visible flames, Padilla said the fire continued to burn in some areas area and 1,100 firefighters currently working would be joined by more resources throughout the day.

Five firefighters suffered what were described as minor injuries, and one civilian was burned, he said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

The fire, pushed by gusts up to 80 mph, eventually spread over some 9,500 acres (3,847 hectares) and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 residents, said county fire Inspector Sam Padilla.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County, clearing the way for state and federal aid to the city and victims.

Los Angeles police arrested five people on suspicion of looting in the fire-stricken area, much of which was left without electricity.