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Sunday 'very good' for firefighters

November 16, 2008 |  7:15 pm

Firefighters try to keep a brush fire from jumping to the west side of the 57 freeway at Tonner Canyon Rd. on Sunday morning.

Ray Chaney, a deputy incident commander with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Sunday was a transition day that went well for firefighters.

"It was a good day today," he said. "Obviously there were challenges this morning, because the wind was still very strong and the humidity still very low. Then today the transition day, about 2 to 3 p.m. the wind took a dramatic turn for the better. The fire intensity diminished with the winds. That allowed us to have a more efficient ground and air attack."

Firefighters held the blaze east of the 57 Freeway as they lined up their engines along the corridor to fend flames back. At one point midmorning, the flames spotted across the highway, but an aggressive attack stopped it.

"It's now looking very good that we'll be able to hold the highway with the wind," Chaney said.

Firefighters were working Sunday night to tie up the fire at Tonner Canyon Road and the 57, where it had posed the greatest concern and burned most actively, officials said at a strategy meeting.

Because winds died down and did not shift as drastically as predicted, multiple roads into Yorba Linda were opened up, as were roads near the Santiago Canyon area, where firefighters closed up much of the southern boundary, officials said.

"The overall big picture is we're encouraged by the weather," Chaney said. "It's changing, and it's changing in our favor....We're cautiously optimistic. We're not going to let our guard down. We've got several days of hard, hard work."

As of this morning, winds were 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. They diminished in the afternoon to about half that speed Chaney said.

Though Tonner Canyon was less problematic after morning flare ups were no longer pushed by wind, firefighters will be focusing on Tonner and Carbon Canyons tomorrow as areas to tighten up fire perimeter. Another area of concern remains Highway 57.

The biggest area of concern Monday will be the northeastern flank of the fire through the Chino Hills, for which firefighters have prepared contingency plans in case the wind shift becomes more pronounced in the days to come, Chaney said.

Offshore winds were expected to die off as Santa Anas weakened, and regular onshore winds grew stronger starting Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, Chaney said.

--Tami Abdollah

Firefighters try to keep a brush fire from jumping to the west side of the 57 freeway at Tonner Canyon Rd. on Sunday morning. Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times