Wildfires nearing containment | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildfires nearing containment

The Associated Press

Ca. Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Millar shows Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, a burned-out home as he tours the Twin Lakes area of Los Angeles County that burned in the Sesnon Fire, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, Pool)

LOS ANGELES – Firefighters neared full containment Thursday of smoldering remnants of big Southern California wildfires that destroyed more than 50 residences, killed a man and forced thousands from their homes.

Santa Ana winds continued to diminish, but weather remained a concern because of low humidity. Forecasters said warnings of conditions creating critically dry vegetation would be in effect in many areas until 10 p.m. Friday.

For people affected by the fires, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order suspending fees for replacement of many kinds of records and late fees on such things as vehicle registrations. It also suspended a waiting period for unemployment insurance applicants and statutes that might delay debris cleanup.

Combined, the three worst blazes burned areas totaling more than 35 square miles since the first broke out early Sunday amid howling Santa Anas.

The size of the region’s largest blaze, located in hills above the western San Fernando Valley, was raised to 14,125 acres Thursday, but containment also increased to 70 percent. Costs of battling the fire reached $7.9 million. Investigators have determined it was ignited by a downed power line.

A 4,824-acre fire at the east end of the valley was contained Thursday evening. Firefighting costs there topped $4.4 million, the fire command said.

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In San Diego County, a 4,026-acre wildfire on the Camp Pendleton Marine base was 90 percent surrounded.

The fire’s cause was under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the state forestry department and the county Sheriff’s Department, said Cpl. Priscilla Vitale, a base spokeswoman.

Marine Corps officials have emphasized that the fire was not caused by any live artillery or explosive ordnance training. Vitale said that at the time the fire started, a Marine unit was participating in a land-navigation exercise that did not include the use of any blanks or live ammunition.

Concerns have been raised by neighboring communities over the cause of the fire and another one last week that also began on a training range and burned 1,500 acres.

Vitale said base officials have restricted training at the base because a high fire danger persists.

Elsewhere, a fire that erupted on the edge of Cleveland National Forest on Wednesday was all but contained. Officials adjusted its size down to 20 acres.