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Weather is on firefighters' side - for now
Cool, moist air is aiding the battle against the last of the Southern California wildfires, but Santa Ana winds are expected to return by this weekend. More

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Firefighter Josh Balboa monitors the Harris fire in southern San Diego County.

Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times


San Bernardino losses list

By 2 p.m. today, the San Bernardino County assessor hoped to release a list of the addresses and parcel numbers of some 200 homes destroyed or damaged in the Lake Arrowhead area, according to Adam Aleman, a spokesman for the assessor's office. The list -- at www.sbassessor.org -- will not include names of property owners, but will have information about whether the residences were damaged or completely destroyed. Residents of the burned areas with questions can call the office at (877) 885-7654.

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Piru, Fillmore, northeast Simi Valley evacuation orders lifted

Ventura County:

Ventura County authorities today lifted evacuation orders for Piru and Fillmore residents theatened by the Ranch fire and for residents northeast of Simi Valley briefly threatened by the Magic fire.

As of 6 a.m., the Ranch fire, which started late Saturday near Castaic, had burned 51,337 acres and was 45% contained. The acreage is down slightly from earlier reports because of more accurate mapping, Ventura County fire officials said. Calmer winds and an aggressive aerial assault on the brush fire Tuesday and overnight stopped the fire's progress, officials said. Residents of about 2,000 households in Piru and Fillmore had been ordered to leave, but many stayed put, opting to watch the hillsides for signs of advancing flames.

A second advisory went out late Monday to residents of canyon homes northeast of Simi Valley because of the Magic fire, which started near Stevenson Ranch on Monday afternoon. Firefighters kept the southern front three miles from the Ventura County line. The blaze is 93% contained, and full containment is expected by 8 p.m., Ventura County authorities said.

"The Magic fire is really closing down. We think that fire is going to be over by tonight," said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash. "We've managed to slow the Ranch fire significantly, with an assist from Mother Nature. Today we are in there with everything we've got: helicopters, bulldozers, hand crews and backfiring operations."

-- Catherine Saillant

Shooting investigated

The San Bernardino Police Department is investigating the shooting of a man within a fire perimeter Tuesday night.

Police could not be reached early today. Reports about what happened were sketchy at the firefighting command post at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead. U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller said the man might have been driving a truck filled with gas cans.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Jeff Newsome of the California Highway Patrol said officers had chased a suspected arsonist in the desert area Tuesday night. The man was arrested at Highway 173 and Arrowhead Lake Road. He was traveling by motorcycle, Newsome said, and several witnesses, as well as the crew of a CHP helicopter, allegedly spotted the man lighting fires in the desert area.

"It very easily could have caused another fire," Newsome said.

The CHP has stopped about 50 suspicious vehicles trying to enter the mountain communities of Lake Arrowhead, and concerns remain about looting. Several people have been arrested on charges of violating the dawn-to-dusk curfew in the mountains, Newsome said, and the area remains under mandatory evacuation.

-- Maeve Reston

Piru rancher protects stallion, avocados and ranch workers


Piru:

Tim Cohen, 41, ran toward the red-orange flames swirling toward his 6,000-acre ranch in Piru Tuesday afternoon. Although firefighters had old him to leave, the rancher insisted on staying to try to save his workers' homes.
He also had 85 thoroughbred horses to protect, -- including High Demand, a black stallion pacing in his corral -- 500 acres of avocados, lemons and other crops.
"I'm here to make sure everybody's safe. And if they're not safe, that they get out of here," Cohen said around noon. He wore a baseball cap, T-shirt and white surgeon's mask as he helped workers spray the blaze with water from tanker trucks.
Nearby, five fire trucks and 80 fire fighters sprayed the flames with water.
"We have the resources here to handle it as long as the wind doesn't change," Cohen said.
For three days, flames from the Ranch fire in Castaic had tried to bull-rush into the canyons surrounding Cohen's Temecula Ranch. On Tuesday, they finally made it down the canyon.
Strike teams were determined to stop the fire north of Piru Canyon Road, before it reached the ranch. But about 1 p.m., the wind picked up and fanned the flames. Cohen moved High Demand into the stables. He had seen other fires in his 7 years on the ranch. But never this close.
Singed rabbits sprinted from the bushes. Cohen said he still felt safe. Certainly safer than those evacuated down in San Diego.
"Nobody's hurt. That's what really matters," he said as flames drew within 20 yards of some of the ranch houses.
One of the ranch workers, Richard Ramos, asked Cohen if he should wet down the roofs. Cohen said it was a good idea.
The fire drew closer. All around, the hills stood charred and blackened. The ranch seemed just the latest morsel for the fire to consume.
"It's like being in a hurricane," Cohen said as flecks of water and ash sprayed his face. "And you can't stop a hurricane. You can't stop it with this wind."
The smoke grew darker, like a fog. Then, just like that, the winds died down. The smoke thinned. Cohen walked toward the stables.
"Too close, too close," the rancher muttered.
He walked past a hay bale, and as if on cue, an ember landed and caught fire. Cohen trudged out of view, workers ran to the hay and doused the fire with water.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske


Residents warned of possible Magic Fire evacuation expansion

Simi Valley area:

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department late Monday advised residents northeast of Simi Valley in the Bennett Road and Ditch Road areas to be prepared to leave overnight if the winds pushed the Magic Fire south. It's a pattern fire officials have seen in past Santa Ana wildfires.

-- Catherine Saillant

Ranch fire threatens Piru and Fillmore

Piru:

Firefighters were aggressively fighting the Ranch Fire at its eastern flank, hoping to keep the flames trapped north of Highway 126. By 6 p.m., the fire had burned 41,000 acres of heavy brush and chaparral, and was threatening the Ventura County communities of Piru and Fillmore.

It had destroyed three homes and three outbuildings, and prompted evacuation recommendations for an estimated 2,000 residents in Piru and Fillmore. Heavy smoke was visible throughout the day and prompted the closure of Highway 126 between Piru and Chiquita Canyon Road to the east in Los Angeles County.

Several canyon neighborhoods in Los Angeles County near Newhall were also evacuated as flames raced west, pushed by the strong winds.

Ranch Fire statistics, as of 6 p.m.:

  • 7 structures destroyed (3 homes and 4 outbuildings)
  • 767 firefighters on scene.
  • 2,000 recommended evacuated (Piru and Fillmore). No deaths, no injuries.
  • 41,000 acres
  • Containment expected Oct. 31.

-- Kay Saillant

Walking the dog till the flames come down

Debbi Chessani, 39, a school cafeteria worker out walking her cocker spaniel, Roxie, said the flames just north of Piru didn't worry her. She and other family members had already packed the SUV and were ready to go if things got worse in her rural neighborhood.

"When I see flames coming down the mountain, that's when it will be time to go,'' Chessani said. She packed treasured photographs, clothes and food for her animals.

Sunday night, as an orange glow from the Ranch fire appeared over a ridge, she was more concerned, Chessani said. But when no flames followed, she went to bed.

Over the years, she's watched flames advance all the way to the town's park. This time, the winds seem to be much wilder, she said.

-- Greg Griggs

Piru residents evacuated

Fast-moving flames have pushed the Ranch fire to within a mile of Piru in Ventura County, prompting evacuation orders for its 1,200 residents, authorities said. Several foothill neighborhoods in Fillmore to the west also were being evacuated as a precaution, said Capt. Barry Parker of the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire had chewed through more than 12,000 acres of heavy brush in forest lands north of the populated communities, Parker said. Highway 126 was closed between Main Street in Piru and Chiquita Canyon to the east because of smoke and the need to get in state firefighting equipment, Parker said.

"It's so smoky right now you can't see the road,'' he said.

Officials are intent on protecting homes and keeping the blaze north of the highway, Parker said. If it jumps the 126, southerly winds would blow the fire toward densely populated Simi Valley and possibly Moorpark, fire officials said.

An evacuation shelter has been set up at the Fillmore Veterans Memorial Building, 511 2nd St. Residents with livestock can take them to the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

-- Kay Saillant

Night Sky fire in Ventura County is out

Firefighters in Ventura County by late Sunday had extinguished the Night Sky wildfire, which burned 35 acres in the Santa Rosa Valley, causing minor damage to the roof of one residence, said Tom Kruschke, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

"We've had a few small fires here and there,'' Kruschke said. "But the Ranch fire is the big one, and it' s going to impact us until the winds die down.''

The Ranch fire near Castaic was burning into Ventura County. After taking 29,000 acres, the fire was 10% contained, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County emergency management office.

-- Kay Saillant in the Santa Rosa Valley