Firefighters took advantage of cooler, damper weather on Sunday to battle a vast blaze ravaging Santa Barbara County, trying to gain a foothold against the fire before the expected return of hotter, drier conditions.
Moist air currents from the ocean cooled temperatures to the high 70s Sunday, helping fire crews keep the four-day-old blaze from spreading. The fire, which has been burning since Tuesday, was less than a third contained Sunday afternoon.
Temperatures are forecast to start climbing today and to reach the 90s by Thursday. The moist air currents are expected to dissipate, causing drier conditions.
The fire has consumed 13 square miles of Los Padres National Forest and has placed nearly 2,700 homes in jeopardy. Officials have ordered mandatory evacuations for hundreds of those homes, and issued warnings for others farther from the fire's path.
Investigators suspect the fire was set. The U.S. Forest Service has asked for public help in determining how.
Sunday's cooler weather also helped firefighters advance on a two-week-old blaze that has destroyed 22 homes in Big Sur, at the northern end of the Los Padres forest.
The fire, which has charred 113 square miles, was 11 percent contained, a slight jump from the day before.
Wildfires have burned more than 800 square miles of land and destroyed at least 69 homes throughout California, mainly in the northern part of the state, in the past two weeks. One firefighter died of a heart attack while digging fire lines.
About 1,400 fires have been contained, but more than 330 still burned out of control Sunday morning.
Police: Fatal shooting was gang-related
Two men who were among four people killed Friday when gunmen fired into a crowd of 100 or more people were members of a resurrected Chicago gang that has killed about 24 people over the past decade, police said. Two women killed were apparently bystanders. Police have not named suspects but said investigators believe two rival gangs carried out the shootings.
aboard air force one
Surprise Bush party en route to Japan
As President Bush flew to Japan Sunday, White House press advisers quietly gathered in a darkened room aboard Air Force One. A steward stuck a single candle in a coconut cake. Bush and first lady Laura Bush were invited inside. "Surprise! Happy Birthday!" they yelled. "He dutifully pretended to be surprised," press secretary Dana Perino said. Bush turned 62.
Republican John McCain attended church Sunday and visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in his hometown, Phoenix. Many of the hundreds of worshipers did not seem to notice that he and his wife were in the church.
Democrat Barack Obama took a day off the campaign trail Sunday, attending a neighborhood barbecue in Chicago with his family.