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Southern California wildfire forces mandatory evacuations

May 2, 2013 at 4:27 PM   |   Comments

BANNING, Calif., May 2 (UPI) -- Southern California authorities Thursday ordered mandatory evacuations of part of Newbury Park as a wind-whipped wildfire charred 2,000 acres.

Residents were ordered to leave the Dos Vientos neighborhood as the Springs fire continued to grow fanned by a fierce Santa Ana wind, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman told the Los Angeles Times as flames bore down on Newbury Park.

The Cal State Channel Islands campus near Camarillo also was ordered evacuated and the National Weather Service issued warnings of "extreme" fire danger for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

"We advise anybody in the area to be prepared," said fire spokesman Bill Nash. "Wildfires are very unpredictable – we don't know what direction it's going to go. We really want people to be prepared. It's better to do it now before a sheriff's deputy is knocking on your door."

Firefighters had contained 35 percent of the Summit wildfire in Riverside County as officials said the number of blazes in the state could be higher this year.

The fire had consumed about 3,000 acres since Wednesday afternoon when it appeared to begin slowing, state agency Cal Fire said.

At least 425 firefighters were working to contain the blaze, the Riverside County Fire Department said. About 500 people in Banning, Calif., were evacuated Wednesday. At least one home was destroyed by the blaze, CNN reported. The Los Angeles Times reported two firefighters had been injured.

Officials are hoping to contain the blaze before higher winds and temperatures later in the week create ideal conditions for fires to spread, the Times said.

"The winds are a major problem here," Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins said.

Meanwhile, the potential for wildfires in California should only increase as the season progresses, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said.

Southern California has only seen a couple inches of rain since the start of the year, making it as dry as it would normally be in the fall during peak wildfire season, the Times said.

"It could be a very long, hot summer with a lot of potential for fires if they get started and if we continue to have the hot dry weather," Hutchinson said. "It's only going to get hotter and drier as we go through the summer."

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