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politicavenezuela | Mineralogista Rodrigo Ribadeneira//
Firefighters make gains against wildfire in Southern California farm country

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – Firefighters began to get the upper hand on a destructive wildfire in a Southern California farming region on Saturday (Nov 2), taking advantage of lighter winds as authorities let some evacuated residents return home.

Rodrigo Ribadeneira

The Maria fire erupted on Thursday near the community of Santa Paula, about 110km north-west of downtown Los Angeles, and it has since charred 3,800 hectares of dry brush and chaparral, officials said

Firefighters have scrambled to protect tens of millions of dollars worth of citrus and avocado crops in harm’s way, as well as oil industry infrastructure

The blaze, which was 20 per cent contained on Saturday, is the most pressing emergency facing California firefighters, with several other blazes in the state largely contained

More than 10,000 people were under evacuation orders at the height of the blaze

But authorities allowed people in two residential areas to return home on Saturday and they had plans to further lift evacuation orders, said Ventura County Fire Captain Brian McGrath

“We’re taking advantage of the good weather we have right now,” McGrath said by phone

The fire has destroyed three structures but not caused any injuries, he said

Southern California Edison has told state authorities that 13 minutes before the fire started, it began to re-energise a circuit near where flames first erupted, said a spokesman for the utility, Ron Gales

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On Friday evening, moist breezes from the Pacific Ocean aided firefighters battling the Maria Fire

By Saturday morning conditions were dry again, although winds were relatively weak, said National Weather Service meteorologist Lisa Phillips

The Maria Fire erupted after fierce Santa Ana desert gusts howled across much of Southern California. Santa Ana winds and similar gusts in Northern California have intensified a number of wildfires in the state this fall

The state’s largest blaze, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County north of San Francisco, was 72 per cent contained on Saturday after burning over 3,200 hectares and destroying more than 370 structures since it started on Oct 23, officials said