Warm weather, Santa Ana winds create havoc for firefighters

Dry weather and Santa Ana winds created havoc for firefighters across California on Tuesday as small brush fires broke out from the Bay Area to the Inland Empire.

In Riverside County, more than 100 firefighters battled a blaze in the Jurupa Valley that destroyed four homes, 11 outbuildings and damaged dozens of vehicles, fire officials said. Gusts in excess of 20 mph were reported.

An elementary school and homes near Mission Boulevard were evacuated, the Riverside County Fire Department said. One firefighter received injuries described as non-life-threatening. The blaze burned about two acres.

More than a dozen pets, including those from a home consumed by flames, were rescued by officers from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services, agency spokesman John Welsh said. 

In Los Angeles, a brush fire in Pacific Palisades forced officials to close Pacific Coast Highway in both directions, snarling rush-hour traffic on the heavily-used thoroughfare. 

All lanes on PCH remained closed Monday night.

Earlier in the day, about 150 firefighters attacked the blaze near Chataqua Boulevard and Channel Road, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. About two acres were scorched.

Crews on the ground were aided by at least one water-dropping helicopter and a Super Scooper aircraft that were making repeated water drops.

The fire, which briefly came close to homes, was knocked down Tuesday evening. Wind was not a factor, an LAFD spokesman said.

The biggest blaze had burned about 40 acres of vegetation and forced authorities to evacuate Kimball Island about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, fire officials said.

At least one structure was destroyed on the island, which is near the Contra Costa, Solano and Sacramento county borders. Firefighters had difficulty responding to the blaze because the island is only accessible by boat, officials said.

The blazes broke out on a day when the National Weather Service had issued red flag warnings and fire weather watches from the Eureka area to San Diego. The critical fire weather was expected to last through Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

The warm weather, strong winds and low relative humidity prompted the California Department of Forestry and Fire protection to beef up crews in wildland areas. 


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