Winds ease, helping California firefighters

Thursday, October 16th 2008, 8:05 am
By: News 9

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Mandatory evacuations were lifted Wednesday for many parts of the Los Angeles area threatened by wildfires as diminishing winds made firefighters' jobs easier.

Evacuation orders for other areas are expected to be lifted later Wednesday.

Two major fires -- the Marek and Sesnon blazes -- have burned more than 18,000 acres in the hills and mountains north of Los Angeles.

The Marek blaze, which has consumed 4,800 acres, is 80 percent contained, officials said Wednesday morning. The fire, burning at the northeastern end of the San Fernando Valley, destroyed 39 homes and five outbuildings.

More than 1,800 residents were forced to flee their homes.

Officials said they hoped to have the fire under control by Thursday night.

The Sesnon wildfire has burned 13,285 acres and was 20 percent contained Wednesday morning, officials said. That blaze, in the Porter Ranch area at the western end of the valley, has destroyed 19 homes, 47 outbuildings and 41 vehicles, they said. Six homes have been damaged.

A 4,000-acre blaze on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego was 75 percent contained by Wednesday morning. An evacuation order for one of the two housing areas on the base was lifted Wednesday.

Another wildfire at the Mexican border was fully contained.

The wildfires had been fanned by strong Santa Ana winds -- with gusts up to 70 mph (113 kph) -- but the winds died down Wednesday.