Firefighters battle flames, terrain north of LA

Associated Press

FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters had to battle terrain as much as flames as they worked to surround a wildfire burning for a third day in harsh hills and mountains north of Los Angeles.

Temperatures dipped Thursday and remained cool Friday, but winds exceeding 20 mph continued to swirl, and much of the blaze that has blackened more than 6 square miles was in rocky, rugged, difficult-to-reach places, making containment a challenge.

After a heavy aerial firefighting effort, the blaze was 35 percent contained Friday.

Meanwhile, 30 miles away, a second blaze broke out Friday afternoon in rural Castaic, briefly threatening an elementary school.

Although it quickly grew to consume 40 acres of light brush, firefighters attacking the flames from the ground and air steered it away from Northlake Hills Elementary School.

The campus was put on lockdown and buses were put on standby for a time in case hundreds of kindergarten through fifth-grade students needed to be evacuated.

After the flames were redirected, Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Brian Allen said the students were released to their parents without incident.

Firefighters didn't immediately know how the blaze started.

The Frazier Park fire broke out near Interstate 5 on Wednesday when temperatures were in the 80s, and though they have since cooled, winds have continued to be a problem.

"It's definitely gusty, but we're lucky, the winds are blowing away from homes," Kern County Fire Department spokesman Corey Wilford said Friday. "It would be better if we didn't have winds at all though."

Lower temperatures were expected to persist into the weekend.

The fire has spread to three counties — Los Angeles, Kern and Ventura — but burned in mostly unpopulated areas and threatened no homes or buildings.

A Kern County high school was closed as a precaution.

The fire started early Wednesday afternoon and initially burned thick brush, seasonal grasses and sage, but then moved into trees.

The cooler weather helped firefighters overnight clear brush and create breaks in hopes of slowing the blaze. Efforts Thursday were focused on the southern edge of the fire.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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