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Cooler temps to ease California wildfire threat

REUTERS
Firefighters start a backfire into the Santa Monica Mountains in an effort to control the Springs Fire near Newbury Park, Calif., on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

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By The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, May 4, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

LOS ANGELES — Cool temperatures and moist air are expected to continue to help firefighters get a handle on a huge wildfire near Thousand Oaks through the weekend, with a 50 percent chance of rain on Sunday.

High temperatures throughout most of the region were forecast to drop to the low 60s and mid-70s on Saturday from just over 90 degrees the day before, said Scott Sukup, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The cooling weather and rising humidity levels caused the weather service on Friday night to cancel red-flag fire warnings in the area.

The humidity, a measure of moisture in the air, was expected to rise steadily through Saturday, officials said. “It should rise to about 60 to 70 percent as the day goes on, climbing higher overnight,” said Sukup, who noted that when the Springs fire began in the Thousand Oaks area on Thursday, relative humidity was about 5 percent.

The cooler, damper air is part of a marine layer that Sukup said would affect much of Southern California during the next several days. The chance of rain will rise to about 50 percent on Sunday and Monday. Sukup said temperatures in in the Springs fire area will continue cooling, reaching the low to mid-60s as the week begins.

While the wetter air helps suppress the blaze, one firefighter noted a Catch-22: The humidity actually hampers efforts to steer the fire with controlled burns of flammable vegetation.

“There's too much humidity right now. We're going to try to get this going again,” said Ventura County fire Capt. Scott Dettorre, noting the trouble firefighters were having as they tried to stoke a controlled burn on a hillside in the Thousand Oaks area. “Otherwise, you get an incomplete burn.”

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the Springs fire, which began near Camarillo. The blaze has burned more than 28,000 acres, charring canyons and closely approaching homes in the affluent area of Hidden Valley. The fire was 30 percent contained by Saturday morning.

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