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Fire jumps aqueduct, heads toward Palmdale homes [Updated]

July 30, 2010 |  3:19 pm

The Crown fire jumped the California Aqueduct on Friday afternoon and was bearing down on homes near Palmdale.

Water-dropping helicopters battled to keep the flames from entering the Rancho Vista subdivision above the aqueduct.

[Updated at 3:21 p.m.: Footage on KCAL-TV Channel 9 showed residents racing to their cars and fleeing the area as flames and dark smoke descended into their neighborhoods.

The fire was within in a few blocks of Rancho Vista Boulevard, but it appeared to slow as it hit a dirt area and a helicopter dropped water on it.]

The blaze, which started a day ago, has now destroyed more than 10,000 acres as well as several structures.

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.

[Updated at 1:29 p.m.: With multiple transmission and distribution lines threatened, Southern California Edison Co. officials said 21 customers were without service in Lancaster, most of them south of Elizabeth Lake Road.

Those customers had been without power since about 4:20 p.m. Thursday, and it was unclear when service would be restored, officials said in a statement.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's electrical grid, has brought additional generation resources on line in case Edison loses transmission lines.]

Deputy Chief Michael Bryant of the Los Angeles County Fire Department 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.

By late Friday morning, the Crown fire -- driven by dense fuel, steep slopes and wind -- had consumed around 8,000 acres. Four dwellings and at least half a dozen outbuildings had been destroyed, Bryant said.

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: The setting sun appears on fire through the smoke of the Crown blaze as viewed from Elizabeth Lake Road in Leona Valley. The entire town of Leona Valley has been evacuated. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times / July 29, 2010)