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Firefighters make headway

A structure lies in ruins behind a fire hydrant in the mountains of Tehachapi, Calif., on Tuesday. More than 30 homes were lost and another 150 structures were threatened, firefighters said.

FELIX ADAMO | Californian

A structure lies in ruins behind a fire hydrant in the mountains of Tehachapi, Calif., on Tuesday. More than 30 homes were lost and another 150 structures were threatened, firefighters said.

TEHACHAPI, Calif. — Hundreds of firefighters gained ground Wednesday against the most destructive of two big wildfires that have burned homes and forced 2,300 people to evacuate mountain communities on the edge of the Mojave Desert and in the southern Sierra Nevada.

A 1,400-acre blaze that chased residents from the Old West Ranch community about 10 miles south of Tehachapi was 25 percent contained.

The firefighting command revised the number of destroyed structures down to 25, and Kern County Fire Department Battalion Chief Dean Boller said most were homes. Fire officials initially estimated 30 to 40 homes were lost. Another 150 homes in the loosely connected community remained threatened.

The area is usually so gusty that wind farms line ridges, but Wednesday afternoon the weather was cooperating with the 800 firefighters on the lines, producing only light breezes.

Winds were expected to increase to 15 mph later in the day, but Boller said firefighters had yet to see the kind of gusts that drove the fire the previous day.

"It was absolute chaos," he said. "It is very, very overgrown. There's so much dead and downed fuel out there — we knew we were in trouble."

About 40 miles to the north, a fire that began Monday in Sequoia National Forest grew to 15,600 acres, or about 24 square miles, and was only 5 percent surrounded after burning eight homes and six outbuildings in the area of Kernville, a launching point for mountain adventuring.

Officials were investigating what caused the fires.

Firefighters make headway 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:07am]

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