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Subsided winds aid firefighters in fight against deadly wildfires in California

By Brian Lada & Adriana Navarro & Renee Duff, Accuweather, Accuweather.com
Subsided winds aid firefighters in fight against deadly wildfires in California
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Photo by Doug Morrison/Los Angeles Fire Department

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The strong winds that fanned the flames of multiple fires in Southern California have subsided; however, firefighters have a long way to go as low humidity levels and rising afternoon temperatures continue to make for difficult conditions.

At least eight blazes continue to burn across the state of California.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County and Riverside County due to the wildfires on Friday afternoon.

Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 21,000 customers in an effort to reduce the risk of the windblown fires exploding in growth due to coming in contact with downed power lines.

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The planned Public Safety Power Shutoff was smaller in scale than the one instituted by Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California on Wednesday. About 13,000 PG&E customers remained without power on Saturday, out of the estimated 738,000 home and businesses that had electricity cut off earlier in the week.

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The largest blaze, the Saddle Ridge Fire ignited and grew exponentially in just a matter of hours on Thursday in a densely populated area just north of Los Angeles. The fire was reportedly 150 acres at 2 p.m., but 2 hours later, it had grown to 500 acres, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The fire quickly engulfed 7,965 acres by Saturday jumped two freeways, and closed parts of another, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Containment was up to 33 percent as of Saturday evening.

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On Friday, California Newsom secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will help make resources more readily available to fight and recover from the Saddleridge Fire.

The LAFD confirmed the Saddleride Fire is responsible for one fatality as a one person suffered cardiac arrest and died after being taken to a local hospital. One firefighter was treated for a minor eye injury.

At least 1,000 firefighters and eight helicopters are battling the fire. At least 31 structures have been damaged or destroyed, but officials did not specify how many were homes.

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As of Saturday afternoon, all evacuations orders related to the Saddleridge Fire have been lifted.

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"We thank members of the community for promptly heeding the evacuation orders and their patience as we worked to contain the fire. As you repopulate the previously evacuated areas, we ask you to remain vigilant, and drive cautiously, as there are still public safety personnel working in the area," the LAFD said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Sandalwood Fire ignited when a trash truck dumped burning garbage sparking the blaze which resulted in the loss of 76 structures thus far, mainly homes at a hilltop mobile home park, according to fire officials.

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The Sandalwood Fire is responsible for two fatalities after the fire raged through a mobile home park on Thursday, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly said.

A 350-acre wildfire, named the Reche Fire in Moreno Valley, Calif., started with a trailer fire that jumped into surrounded vegetation, propelled by intense Santa Ana winds, officials with the Riverside county Fire Department said.

The sheriff's department identified the first victim as 89-year-old Lois Arvikson of Calimesa. The second unidentified body was found on Saturday morning in a mobile park home in Calimesa.

As of Saturday evening, the flames were burning 1,011 acres and wildfire was 68 percent contained.

Fire crews continue battling the Briceburg Fire near Yosemite National Park, which was burning 5,563 acres and 60 percent contained as of Saturday evening, according to CalFire.

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A wildfire named the Reche Fire in Moreno Valley, Calif., started with a trailer fire that jumped into surrounded vegetation, propelled by intense Santa Ana winds, officials with the Riverside county Fire Department said.

As of Saturday afternoon, the flames were burning 350 acres and 97 percent contained, with no homes or other structures threatened, fire authorities said.

The cause of the Reche Fire is still under investigation.

Crews gained significant ground on the Wendy Fire in Ventura County on Friday and Saturday, which has burned 91 acres and is 80 percent contained.

Firefighters should be able to gain ground on the ongoing blazes with winds not being nearly as strong as what fueled the firestorm.

"Fire weather conditions will improve Sunday. It will remain rather dry, but an onshore wind and cooler temperatures will help to alleviate the fire threat. However, that threat is not zero," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike LeSeney said.

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