Fire crews fear lightning will cause more fires

Mercer 21023

Dave Mills/AP

In this Sept. 5. 2011 file photo, a DC-10 airplane drops retardant to help put out the wildfire in Tehachapi, Calif. on.

Hundreds of homes remained threatened Monday by wildfires in central California forests. Fire crews say cool and humid weather helped to calm the fire, but that it may also be a sign of thunderstorms, lightning and gusty winds to come.

The series of fires were sparked by weekend lightning. Thus far more than 84 square miles have burned near Tehachapi and in the Sequoia National Forest north of Los Angeles. The National Weather Service predicted a 20 to 30 percent chance of thunderstorms in the areas.

The 23,866-acre Comanche Complex of fires was 30 percent contained but an evacuation notice was in place for several hundred homes in Stallion Springs, Kern County fire Capt. Bill Brickey said. "If anybody's still in there, we want them to get out," he said.

A fire southwest of Bakersfield near the city of Arvin moved into an area of homes, but no building damage was reported, Brickey said.

About 800 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft were battling the flames in oak woodlands.

The 7,025-acre Keene Complex of five fires near Tehachapi was 92 percent contained.

Fire crews made headway overnight as winds eased, but scattered homes in the remote area remained in danger and many were not easily accessible, Brickey said.

About 1,700 firefighters were assigned to the blaze but some could be transferred to the Comanche Complex if conditions warrant the move.

Farther north, the Breckenridge Complex of blazes had burned 24,000 acres in Kern County, Sequoia National Forest and other federal land. It was only 20 percent contained.

The huge, ancient sequoias in the forest were not threatened.

"It's not anywhere near the giant sequoias right now," said forest spokesman Cody Norris.

There were as many as 50 small fires started in Kern County on Saturday, after a series of fast-moving thunderstorms brought frequent lightning.

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