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Small California wildfire forces evacuation at Marine base

- Associated Press - Sunday, October 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fueled by strong winds, a Southern California wildfire forced 260 residents and hospital patients to evacuate at a military base.

The fire broke out at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton amid hot, dry and windy conditions throughout the region on Saturday. The growing blaze prompted the evacuation of 230 residents from a housing unit near Lake O'Neil and caused minor damage to four buildings, base officials said.

Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was not threatened by the fire, but a power outage prompted officials to evacuate about 30 patients to other hospitals in the area and stop accepting new patients. Service at the hospital was restored by late Saturday.

By early Sunday morning, the blaze had scorched 1,500 acres, and firefighters were working through the night, according to Sgt. Leo Salinas, the public affairs chief.

More than 200 firefighters were at the scene. The fire was 15 percent contained.

In northern Los Angeles County, traffic in the Newhall Pass came to a standstill when a 15-acre fire began on a hillside north of the junction of Interstate 5 and State Route 14. The freeways were closed in all directions for about 90 minutes, according to City News Service.

Wind gusts of 65 mph were reported near the area of the fire.

To the west in Ventura County, a big rig went off U.S. 101 in Oxnard and crashed into a car dealership parking lot, causing a fire that spread to 16 vehicles in the lot, officials said.

The truck driver said wind was a factor in the crash, Oxnard police Cmdr. Martin Myer said. He said strong winds also fanned a fire Friday night that destroyed four buildings in an Oxnard complex and displaced 78 people.

In Orange County, winds knocked down a power line in Tustin on Saturday morning, touching off several small brush fires that caused damage to one home, fire officials said.

The winds also shut down the annual Tustin Tiller Days festival early, the Orange County Register reported. Tents, tables and trash cans were getting blown away, and an 8-year-old girl suffered a minor head injury when a plastic panel came off of a carousel ride.

The powerful Santa Ana winds kicked up late Friday, and a National Weather Service red-flag warning of extreme fire danger for the entire region said the wind event will last until Sunday evening.

A peak wind gust of 90 mph was recorded Saturday morning at Laguna Peak in Ventura County.

The weather service called the situation the region's "most significant fire weather threat in the past five years." Temperatures were unseasonably high, reaching in the 90s in many coastal communities, with humidity levels in the single digits.

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