Calif. fire updates: Kern County rages on as Agua Dulce nears containment

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AP Photo/Mike Meadows

Firefighters try to catch a hot spot from a wildfire in Agua Dulce, Calif., Monday, Sept. 5, 2011. The fire was burning near the Vasquez Rocks county park, whose other-worldly, slanting rock monoliths have served as the backdrop for many Hollywood film and TV shows including "Star Trek."

Firefighters in Kern County are working to protect hundreds of homes that are threatened by a wildfire that broke out when a single-engine plane crashed. The Canyon fire near Tehachapi has burned some 13,500 acres and is 10 percent contained. Authorities didn't know how many people were on the plane that crashed, but two people have been confirmed dead.

“The area surrounding there has not burned for many, many years," said Sean Collins, a spokesman for the Kern County Fire Department. "It has very dense undergrowth of brush and oak and pine trees. And we also have, unfortunately, a mortality of Western Great Pines in that area too. So the fire, when it does start to burn, it burns very hot and very quickly.”

It may reach 90 degrees there today and tomorrow. So far, 170 homes are under mandatory evacuation, and about 650 more may have to be evacuated.

The American Red Cross has set up a shelter at Tehachapi High School. A shelter for large animals has been set up at the Tehachapi Rodeo Grounds.

Approximately 300 firefighters worked early Tuesday morning to expand fire lines around another fire that started in a barn and trailer in the Vasquez Rocks area south of Agua Dulce, authorities said. The fire led to voluntary evacuations of residents and farm animals until late Monday night when they were able to return home, said Fire Department spokesman Darryl Jacobs.

A fire official told KPCC that if evacuations became mandatory, it could take some time to get animals out of the area."If you're downwind of this fire, and you have horses or any other large animals, start your evacuation now," a fire official said.

"Our firefighters, they need all the help that they can get and when homeowners take the advice of their local firefighters in clearing their homes that helps us out tremendously," Jacobs said.

No evacuation orders were in effect early today.

"Things are getting better," Jacobs said. The fire was "laying down" overnight thanks to the humidity, giving firefighters a significant opportunity to mop up.

But the winds could pick up. "We are not out of the woods yet," he said.

The 500-acre fire is now 70 percent contained, but the containment figure could be revised upward when an aerial survey is taken, said Los Angeles County Fire dispatch supervisor Phil Ulloa.

Air drops are expected to resume this morning.

Two injuries were reported, including a woman who suffered minor burns and a firefighter who was stricken with heat exhaustion Monday.

The fire was reported at 12:55 p.m. Monday in a trailer and barn on Wagon Wheel Road between Cidar Avenue and Darling Road, said Fire Department Inspector Don Kunitomi. As of early today, only the trailer and barn had been destroyed by the fire.

The fire is burning near the Vasquez Rocks nature center, which has served as the backdrop for many Hollywood films and TV shows.

Fresh firefighters were sent Tuesday morning to another fire on Canyonback Road between the 405 Freeway and Mandeville Canyon near Brentwood. Brian Humphrey of the L.A. Fire Department said firefighters were gaining the upper hand Monday and the fire's now 80 percent contained.

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