June 26, 2005

Crews Make Headway Against Fires Raging in Mojave National Preserve

The five blazes are 65% contained after burning 65,200 acres and razing five homes, six trailers.

By Louis Sahagun, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

A group of fires in the eastern Mojave Desert was 65% contained Saturday after burning about 65,200 acres of dry brush and destroying five homes and six trailers, authorities said.

About 935 firefighters from throughout the state battled the five fires, which were started by lightning Wednesday in the sprawling Mojave National Preserve about 40 miles west of the Nevada border, said Capt. Greg Cleveland of the Southern California Incident Management Team.

"This was the largest fire on record within the 1.6-million acre preserve," he said. "The fire behavior we experienced on Thursday, when we had strong southwesterly winds, was almost explosive."

The fires charred vast expanses of grass, sagebrush and pinyon in remote, rocky terrain in the preserve, which includes historic vertical mine shafts and unexploded ordnance dating to World War II, he said.

"Firefighters made good progress Saturday because the winds were not as strong as expected," Cleveland said. "We only had one minor injury: a pulled hamstring."

Also Saturday, a fire in the Santa Clarita area charred about 125 acres and was 100% contained.

About 100 firefighters attacked the blaze northwest of Val Verde Park and southwest of Castaic. There were no reports of injuries or damaged structures.

Separately, two fires in San Bernardino and Riverside counties that together burned 5,100 acres were fully contained Saturday, fire officials said.

In San Bernardino County, the Paradise fire in Morongo Valley, about 20 miles north of Palm Springs, destroyed six houses and damaged another.

"We will be doing minor mop-up and patrolling over the next few days," said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Steve Faris. "But this fire is pretty much out."

In Riverside County, the Soboba fire near San Jacinto burned 2,080 acres.

One firefighter battling that blaze hurt his knee, and another had abdominal pain. No structures were damaged.