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Crown wildfire climbs to 8,000 acres in Leona Valley [Updated]

July 30, 2010 |  8:53 am

Firefighters launched an aerial assault Friday on an 8,000-acre, wind-driven wildfire in northern L.A. County's high desert that destroyed several structures and forced hundreds of residents from their homes.

More than 750 firefighters had brought the Crown fire to about 5% containment. Wind gusts and temperatures in the 90s were expected Friday afternoon.

Deputy Chief Michael Bryant of the L.A. County Fire Department said the priority would be to protect "critical infrastructure," such as high-power lines that bring electricity to much of Southern California.

"We are working the eastern and western perimeters to keep the fire out of Palmdale and out of the northeast Leona Valley," Bryant said.

The assault would be aided by a DC-10 jet, four air tankers and six helicopters, he said.

The investigation into the fire's origin Thursday centers on a vacant lot where workers were apparently using a hammer to extract bolts from tire rims, Bryant said. No illegal activity appeared to be involved, he added.

[Updated at 10:11 a.m.: A previous version incorrectly stated that workers were extracting nails from the rims.]

Three trailers and a single-family home were destroyed in the Lazy T Ranch of Leona Valley. Near South Lake Elizabeth Road, one house had roof damage, while three out-buildings and a hay barn were destroyed, Bryant said.

[Updated at 10:09 a.m. : A previous version gave the incorrect name for the ranch as the Lazy T community.]

Some power poles also were destroyed.

Sheriff's deputies had issued an evacuation call to some 2,000 households, and from 500 to 750 people left the area, though most were back home early Friday, said Los Angeles Sheriff's Capt. Joe Hartshorne.

A second blaze, the Briggs fire, burned more than 350 acres south of the 14 Freeway at Indian Canyon Truck Trail and Briggs Road. Firefighters had the blaze under control by late Thursday. A third fire off Lancaster Road near Gorman burned about 30 acres Thursday before it was extinguished.

Inspector Matt Levesque of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said no injuries or fatalities had been reported in any of the fires.

-- Ann Simmons in Leona Valley

Photo: Smoke rises above the Angeles National Forest on Friday morning behind the shell of a burned car near Ritter Ranch along Lake Elizabeth Road. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times