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Showers Aid Firefighters Hoping To Contain California Wildfire

A firefighting helicopter flies over burned hills during the La Tuna fire in Los Angeles, California on Sunday.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
A firefighting helicopter flies over burned hills during the La Tuna fire in Los Angeles, California on Sunday.

Brief rain showers may have allowed firefighters in California to get the upper hand on what's been described as the largest wildfire in Los Angeles history.

Fueled by record-setting heat, the blaze has cut a swath through parts of Southern California. Meanwhile, multiple blazes elsewhere in the West have caused evacuations in Montana's Glacier National Park and prompted rescues of holiday hikers who spent a night trapped in the woods along the Columbia River Gorge Trail in Oregon.

Map showing California wildfires.
/ CA.gov
Map showing California wildfires.

"We've turned the corner, but this is not over," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters. "With winds this strong, anything can happen."

"We do not have this fire contained," Garcetti said, "but we do have a good sense of, in the next day or two, how we can bring this fire to rest."

Los Angeles Fire Chief Capt. Ralph Terrazas said conditions could change again, "in a moment's notice" and that the winds "can accelerate very quickly."

"There is a lot of fuel out there left to burn," he said.

Garcetti said four firefighters had been injured battling the blaze.

As member station KPCC reported, "Along with winds, firefighters had to deal with high temperatures. On Friday temperatures reached 107. It stayed hot Saturday with temperatures topping 100." However, the forecast was for temperatures to moderate in coming days, what L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said was a positive sign for getting the fire under control.

Brief, gusty, rain showers on Sunday were also helping.

As NPR's Amy Held reported on Saturday, the La Tuna Fire has consumed thousands of acres and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes in Burbank, Glendale and the city of Los Angeles. As of late Sunday, all mandatory evacuations for those areas had been lifted.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, in an incident update released at 8 p.m. Sunday, said the fire had engulfed just over 7,000 acres and was 30 percent contained.

The AP reports that more than 700 homes – some 1,400 people — were evacuated "as the blaze tore through thick brush that has not burned in decades." By Sunday afternoon nearly all had been able to return to their homes.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Sunday for Los Angeles County to pave the way for state and federal aid.

The news agency reports:

"California authorities ordered evacuations for a third small town Sunday in one of the wildfires, a blaze that has burned 9-square-miles (23 square kilometers) near Yosemite.

"Firefighters battling that blaze were making it a priority to safeguard the ancient grove of giant sequoia and a pair of historic cabins at the foot of the trees, fire spokeswoman Anne Grandy said. Fire crews had wrapped the two 19th-century cabins and an outhouse in shiny, fire-resistant material to protect them from the flames that had entered the Nelder Grove, Grandy said."

Hundreds of miles to the north in California, the Ponderosa Fire has burned 4,000 acres and destroyed 32 homes in Butte County since it started on Tuesday, It has been 68 percent contained according to the latest incident report.

In Washington state, where the high temperatures have also driven three major fires, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency across the entire state, where the blazes forced recreation areas to close and prompted evacuations, according to the AP.

And AP writes:

"Flames in Montana's Glacier National Park prompted officials to evacuate all residents, campers and tourists from one of the most popular areas of the park. The order Sunday affects the Lake McDonald area, the western side of the dizzying Going-to-the Sun Road and some of the most visited trails in the area. The Lake McDonald Lodge, built in 1913, closed last week because of heavy smoke in the area."

In Oregon, today's high was expected to reach 99 degrees. In Montana, NBC reports that daytime temperatures on Monday would be in the 70s and 80s with east to northeast winds gusting to 30 mph.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.