- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. (AP) - A wind-driven brush fire burned at least two houses and forced at least 50 others to be evacuated Friday before firefighters mostly contained the blaze at 40 to 50 acres. No major injuries were reported.

The flames erupted late in the afternoon, burning sparse desert scrub near a residential neighborhood about two miles north of downtown. Dense smoke and high winds were knocking down power lines and palm trees, initially complicating firefighting and evacuation efforts, said police Sgt. Mitch Spike.

Wind gusts reached 60 to 70 mph before nightfall, grounding water-dropping helicopters and forcing authorities to fight the blaze from the ground, said fire Battalion Chief Austin Smith. By nightfall the winds had calmed and about a hundred firefighters and 30 engines were mopping up hotspots, he said, adding that two homes received only minor damage.

The Fire Department said evacuations might be lifted late Friday night.

The National Weather Service posted high wind warnings until 10 p.m.

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