published Saturday, May 18th, 2013

California fire crews gain edge on 2 blazes along I-5

Mike Whitaker, left, and Andrew Fullingim watch smoke from a brush fire from Lake Hughes in Castaic, Calif., Friday, May 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Jonathan Pobre)
Mike Whitaker, left, and Andrew Fullingim watch smoke from a brush fire from Lake Hughes in Castaic, Calif., Friday, May 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Jonathan Pobre)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — As firefighters took on a stubborn 3-day-old wildfire Friday in rough terrain north of Los Angeles, a second and more serious blaze broke out 30 miles away near Interstate 5, quickly surging to more than 500 acres, briefly threatening an elementary school and leading to the precautionary evacuation of nearly 20 homes.

The new fire burned very close to I-5 during some of the busiest hours of the week for the heavily traveled route in and out of Los Angeles. The freeway has seen wildfire activity in its surrounding hills all week.

But some 350 firefighters were able to get the edge on the blaze as quickly as it arose. The fire was 60 percent contained by nightfall and residents of some 19 homes advised to evacuate were told they could safely return, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

Crews were helped by relatively mild temperatures, but challenged by unpredictable winds and very difficult terrain.

With air and ground attacks, firefighters were able to douse the flames closest to Northlake Hills Elementary School and stop a looming threat.

The school had a large defensible space around it, so it was easy to protect, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Scott Miller said.

The campus was put on lockdown and buses were put on standby for a time in case hundreds of kindergarten through fifth-grade students needed to be evacuated.

After the flames were redirected, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Allen said the students were released to their parents without incident.

The fire was moving toward Castaic Lake.

The earlier fire that broke out Wednesday near Frazier Park was 55 percent contained Friday after consuming some 4,300 acres.

That blaze was not threatening any homes or buildings but fire officials said containing it would be a long, difficult task because it was burning in such rugged and hard-to-reach terrain.

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