Kern County wildfire forces evacuations

LEBEC — Fire roared through 750 acres of mountain wilderness northwest of Los Angeles on Tuesday, forcing evacuations as flames threatened dozens of rural homes, authorities said.

Firefighters worked in 100-degree heat in rugged terrain as airtankers, including a DC-10 jumbo jet, painted ridges with orange swaths of retardant to try to corral the flames' advance.

Fifty to 60 homes were threatened, said Michelle Puckett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The total number of people affected was not clear. Displaced residents were being sent to a school.

About 150 firefighters from Kern County, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service were battling the blaze and many more were en route, authorities said.

The fire was reported at 12:15 p.m. There was no immediate word on the cause.

Huge columns of smoke rose into the sky as flames chewed through stands of pine west of Interstate 5 in the Lebec area of Tejon Pass, about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Lebec is one of several small communities along I-5 in the pass, which rises to an elevation of more than 4,000 feet between the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles metropolitan region.

The National Weather Service said high pressure over the Southwest will keep temperatures hot through Thursday, possibly at record levels in some areas. The high will weaken on Friday and allow some cooling, the NWS said.

Elsewhere in the state, a lightning-sparked blaze burning in Yosemite National Park since Aug. 9 had blackened a total of 160 acres in the Lake Vernon area north of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The National Park Service said crews were managing the fire for ecologicaal benefits.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jennifer Connolly says the brush fire is not affecting the Golden State (5) Freeway at this time.

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Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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