November 3, 2019 / 5:36 PM / a month ago

Firefighters beat back Southern California wildfire as winds lighten

The Maria Fire moves down a hill in Santa Paula, California, U.S. November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss.

(Reuters) - Firefighters working overnight to contain a Southern California wildfire made significant headway on Sunday, containing 50% of the blaze with the aid of cooler weather and lighter winds after it burned thousands of acres of dry brush and farmland.

The Maria Fire, which broke out on Thursday near the community of Santa Paula about 70 miles (110 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, had destroyed two structures and burned more than 9,400 acres (3,800 hectares), the Ventura County Fire Department said on Sunday.

“Overnight firefighters continued to patrol the fire perimeter extinguishing any remaining hot spots. Fire behaviour was moderated due to cooler temperatures and lighter winds,” the department said in a statement.

All evacuation orders were lifted on Saturday, when the fire department said the blaze was 20% contained. More than 10,000 residents had been told to evacuate at the peak of the fire’s rapid spread.

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

Southern California Edison had shut off power in the area because of concerns that an electrical mishap could spark a wildfire. The utility and fire officials have said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Strong, dry desert winds have fuelled the Maria Fire and a number of other destructive wildfires across the state this fall.

The largest blaze, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County north of San Francisco, was 76% contained on Sunday after burning nearly 80,000 acres and destroying more than 370 structures since it started on Oct. 23, officials said.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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