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Santiago fire creeps toward Mine Tract

Orange County:

The Santiago blaze is clambering toward Mine Tract, a small community of about 40 homes in Silverado Canyon. All residents have been evacuated, and hand crews are cutting a fire break. Firefighters are positioning themselves to defend the homes while water-dropping helicopters are trying to douse the flames, which are half a mile away.

"Right now, it's a very slow back-burning fire creeping down the ridge tops," said Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Pat Antrim, who has lived in Silverado for 46 years.

These homes are the only ones immediately threatened in Silverado, which has been evacuated for days and has so far avoided major damages.

"The threat is diminishing day by day," Antrim said.

Firefighters say improving weather, including a sprinkle of rain Saturday morning, bodes well for their ability to control the 27,521-acre blaze. Earlier this week, the arson fire's growth was fueled by Santa Ana winds and bone-dry conditions, and it destroyed at least 14 homes, mostly in Modjeska Canyon.

"We're getting a little drizzle, which is better than hot wind," Antrim said.

Capt. Andrew Ruiz, a Los Angeles city firefighter who was protecting homes in Mine Tract, added, "The weather is in our favor, and we're taking advantage of it."

-- David Haldane


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