Wildfire triples in size but rain may come to rescue

A wildfire tearing through a coastal region in Southern California nearly tripled in size as high temperatures fuelled the flames, but an expected weekend change in the weather will likely give crews manning the fire lines much-needed assistance.

The fire, 80km northwest of Los Angeles, mushroomed to 111sq km yesterday as 900 firefighters used engines, aircraft, bulldozers and other equipment to battle the flames.

Forecasters said increased humidity should help teams fighting the early-season blaze make gains on Saturday, local time.

Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out on Thursday and quickly moved through the Camarillo Springs area has damaged just 15 structures, though it is threatening 2000 homes.

The type of blaze that hit the area usually doesn't strike Southern California wildland until September or October, after the summer has dried out hillside vegetation.

But the state has suffered a severe drought during the past year, and the water content of California's snowpack was only 17 per cent of normal.

That created late-summer conditions by May, and when hot winds and high temperatures arrived this week, the spring flames that firefighters routinely knock down once or twice a year quickly roared up a hillside out of control.

On Friday, the wildfire stormed back through canyons towards inland neighbourhoods when winds reversed direction.

The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year, about 200 more than average.

- AP

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