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New Fires Erupt in California as Heatwave Sears Southwest

Several blazes have started around California during the heat wave, leading to property damage but no reported injuries
By The News · 20 of June 2016 19:05:16
Upland firefighters, from left, Nima Homayounieh, Joseph Armendariz, and Capt. Joe Burna, watch as flames burn toward Highway 94 near Potrero, California, on Monday, June 20, 2016, Upland firefighters, from left, Nima Homayounieh, Joseph Armendariz, and Capt. Joe Burna, watch as flames burn toward Highway 94 near Potrero, Calif., on Monday, June 20, 2016. (Hayne Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune via AP), photo: San Diego Union-Tribune via AP/Hayne Palmour IV

LOS ANGELES — New wildfires erupted Monday near Los Angeles and chased people from their suburban homes as an intense heatwave stretching from the West Coast to New Mexico blistered the region.

Towering columns of smoke rose from the San Gabriel Mountains as two fires several miles apart devoured hundreds of acres of brush on steep slopes above foothill suburbs.

Police in the city of Azusa and parts of Duarte ordered hundreds of homes evacuated. Others were under voluntary evacuations.

“It’s crazy. It’s super close,” said 17-year-old Tawni Atencio, whose family was evacuating their home in Bradbury.

She said the flames were just a couple miles away and were making the house hot despite air conditioning. She watched as smoke from the fire billowed outside and helicopters dropped retardant on the flames.

“It looked like a bomb exploded,” she said. “It’s scary. We’re just praying it doesn’t get to our house.”

The two fires had grown to a combined 5 square miles. The first and largest of the two was sparked by a car accident, the California Highway Patrol said.

Officials had warned of extreme fire danger in the region as the heat peaked. Temperatures surpassed 100 degrees across much of Southern California well before noon, while some desert cities sizzled in the 120s.

Lakeside firefighters Joe Vasquez, left, and David Csik walk around a house as Lakeside Fire Capt. Jon Jordan watches large flames burn toward the home on Highway 94 south of Potrero Calif., on Monday, June 20, 2016. An intensifying heat wave stretching from the West Coast to New Mexico threatened to make the fight against Southern California wildfires more difficult Monday. (Hayne Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Lakeside firefighters Joe Vasquez, left, and David Csik walk around a house as Lakeside Fire Capt. Jon Jordan watches large flames burn toward the home on Highway 94 south of Potrero, California, on Monday, June 20, 2016. Photo: San Diego Union-Tribune via AP/Hayne Palmour IV

Elsewhere, crews made progress against a nearly week-old blaze in rugged coastal mountains west of Santa Barbara. Overnight winds pushed flames into previously burned areas, allowing firefighters to boost containment to more than 50 percent.

About 270 homes and other buildings still were threatened by the blaze, which has charred more than 12 square miles since Wednesday.

Another wildfire was growing near Potrero, a small desert town close to the Mexico border. It surged to nearly 3 square miles amid triple-digit temperatures and forced the evacuation of about 75 people from the ranching community about 40 miles southeast of San Diego.

Three firefighters suffered heat-related injuries and were taken to a hospital for evaluations.

Other blazes burned wide swaths across Arizona and New Mexico, where firefighters also faced blistering temperatures.

In central New Mexico, a 28-square-mile fire that erupted last week and destroyed 24 homes in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque was largely uncontained. Higher humidity overnight allowed crews to strengthen lines around the fire.

Farther north, a small blaze ignited in a popular recreation area where Santa Fe National Forest officials considered some youth camps and campgrounds threatened. Both camps posted social media updates saying the facilities were fine and there was no immediate threat.

In eastern Arizona, a fire doubled to nearly 42 square miles and led officials to warn a community of 300 residents to prepare to evacuate. The blaze on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation southwest of Show Low was not moving quickly toward the community of Cedar Creek because of sparse vegetation and shifting winds.

JOHN ANTCZAK