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Schwarzenegger visits site of Crown fire, which has grown to 13,000 acres

July 30, 2010 |  5:57 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the site of the 13,000-acre Crown fire in northern Los Angeles County late Friday afternoon to assess the fire and to praise firefighters for their work in protecting area homes.

“Even though we have a budget crunch, everyone should be assured that we have money available for fighting these fires,” Schwarzenegger said. “Public safety is our No. 1 priority.”

Schwarzenegger said the Crown fire was 20% contained and that so far four structures have burned since the blaze began Thursday. About 300 homes have been evacuated, he said.

About 1,700 firefighters are being assisted by five water-dropping helicopters and a DC-10 aircraft, which is being used to drop fire retardant, the governor said. Also, a 747 tanker plane has arrived to help in battling the fire, he said. 

The wind-driven fire jumped the California Aqueduct shortly after 3 p.m. and was bearing down on homes near Palmdale. But an aggressive aerial-assault appeared to keep flames from entering the Rancho Vista subdivision above the aqueduct.

Several spot fires continued to burn throughout the area, including near the backyards of some homes, while huge columns of white smoke could be seen for miles in all directions.

With wildfires near Palmdale threatening power lines, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power asked residents Friday to reduce their energy usage wherever possible.

“We’re asking people to help care for our infrastructure while this fire is burning, as we wait for the potential threat to diminish,” said Brooks Baker, a spokesman for the agency.

Officials said the agency minimized power imports Friday on a transmission line that passes through the Leona Valley -- where the Crown fire is burning -- and began generating power at in-basin power plants to deliver energy to the city.

“At this time, the power system is functioning normally, and there are no fire-related outages,” Baker said.

Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Bryant said both DWP and Edison power lines were threatened, and protecting this “critical infrastructure” was a priority for firefighters battling the blaze.

“These power lines provide the infrastructure for power throughout the state of California,” Bryant said.

-- Ann M. Simmons