LOS ANGELES (AP) — LOS ANGELES (AP) — Firefighters hoped to make gains against Southern California wildfires as an intense heat wave eased slightly Tuesday.
Two fires in the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles remained uncontained but had not destroyed any homes while their combined size grew to more than 8 square miles.
Most mandatory evacuations will be lifted Wednesday morning.
Firefighters planned to try to put in containment lines by pulling hoses and using bulldozers as aircraft dump retardant and water, said Nathan Judy, spokesman for the Angeles National Forest.
Even with the improved weather forecast, firefighters would still be working in near-triple-digit temperatures and low humidity, he said.
The fires that erupted separately Monday scared homeowners before burning mostly away from the cities.
Charlie Downing, out of breath and with his shirt off because of the heat, said when he first smelled fire and felt heat that he ran outside of his house and was astonished by the size and nearness of the flames.
“I came running over just to look and it was 15 to 20 feet in the air,” Downing told reporters. “By the time I came back and told my grandma and my kids to get in the car, it was right by the car.”
He and two neighbors sprayed the flames with their yard hoses until firefighters arrived minutes later.
It was “very fortunate” that the fire then shifted toward the mountains, though it could easily move back, Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief John B. Tripp said.
“If we get down-canyon winds, it could shift and homes could be in danger again,” Tripp said.
Two towering columns of smoke visible by day became a single vast glow after nightfall.
Elsewhere, crews made progress against a nearly week-old blaze in rugged coastal mountains west of Santa Barbara. Overnight winds pushed flames into previously burned areas, allowing firefighters to boost containment to 70 percent.
About 270 homes and other buildings were threatened by the blaze, which has charred more than 12 square miles since Wednesday.
Another wildfire in the desert close to the Mexico border southeast of San Diego was holding at nearly 12 square miles after forcing the evacuation of about 75 people from a ranching community. Temperatures in the 90s were expected there Tuesday.
Other blazes burned wide swaths across Arizona and New Mexico, where firefighters also faced blistering heat.
In central New Mexico, a 28-square-mile fire that erupted last week and destroyed 24 homes in the mountains south of Albuquerque showed signs of slowing down. Higher humidity has allowed crews to strengthen lines, and some evacuees would be allowed to return home on Tuesday.
In eastern Arizona, a fire doubled to nearly 42 square miles and led officials to warn a community of 300 residents to prepare to evacuate. The blaze on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation was not moving quickly toward the community of Cedar Creek because of sparse vegetation and shifting winds.
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