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Fires flare in dry SCV conditions

An out-of-control prescribed burn scorches more than 25 acres in Castaic

Posted: May 18, 2009 10:29 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Several fires charred more than 25 acres in and around the Santa Clarita Valley on a blisteringly hot Monday, including a prescribed burn that raged out of control during a training exercise in Castaic.

The blazes erupted in 95-plus degree weather amid dry brush, signaling an early start to the fire season. "Here we are in the middle of May and we are seeing the (fire conditions) that are usually in July," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Frank Garrido.

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the mid-80s today, with a 20-percent chance of thunderstorms, which could cause fires, said NWS weather specialist Stuart Seto.

On Monday, firefighters from Los Angeles and Ventura counties briefly lost control of a controlled burn during a training exercise off of The Old Road in Castaic about 1 p.m. It blackened about 25 acres before firefighters put it out at 1:50 p.m.

Controlled burns are set intentionally by firefighters to clear brush. In theory, the firefighters have control of the flames and put them out once they've done their job.

But conditions on Monday may have been a bit more volatile than officials had expected.

About 100 firefighters were training in the rolling hills near the Pitchess Detention Center when a gust of wind spread the fire across dry grass too quickly, said Stephanie English, a county fire community liason.

"It doesn't happen very often, but we're prepared," she said.

Another 90 firefighters and two helicopters rushed to the scene to put out the flames. No structures were threatened and the flames burned mostly light grass, English said.

Three other fires also popped up Monday.

About 10:20 a.m. in Valencia near the 25500 block of W. Avenue Stanford. An electrical transformer sparked a fire that charred about two acres before firefighters doused it about an hour later, Garrido said.

At 12:50 p.m., flames broke out near state Route 14 near Little Rock. Firefighters put out the 1 1/2-acre fire by 1:15 p.m.

A fire in Lancaster scorched 100 acres later in the afternoon. Fire investigators were still trying to determine its cause Monday evening.

On Sunday, a fire blackened 12 acres near the Acton Rehabilitation Center. That blaze was set off by a lawnmower.

Garrido said residents trying to clear brush using machines or metal-bladed tools should be careful and keep a garden hose nearby in case they accidentally start a fire.

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