California crews contain fire but authorities fear mudslide

VENTURA, Calif. -- As firefighters mopped up the remains of a wildfire on the Southern California coast, authorities turned their focus to a new concern: a landslide if rain pounds the charred hills.

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In a heavy rain, the denuded soil could threaten nearby railroad tracks, U.S. 101 and the Pacific Coast Highway.

"Gravity's going to take it where it wants to go," Ventura County fire Capt. Mike Lindbery said, "and where it wants to go is down on the highway, across the railroad tracks and right into whatever is in its way."

On Sunday, hundreds of firefighters up the remnants of the wind-whipped wildfire that threatened dozens of coastal homes. The fire that scorched about 1,230 acres north of Ventura was 75 per cent contained, with full containment expected Tuesday, fire officials said.

The blaze erupted Friday night when high winds caused power lines on an oil field to arc. At its peak, the fire closed a 15-mile stretch of an adjacent, six-lane freeway, U.S. 101, and another major north-south route, the Pacific Coast Highway.

The winds eased Saturday, and the fire stopped growing. Evacuation orders for about 50 homes in Solimar Beach were rescinded.

On Sunday, about 300 firefighters were busy dousing hotspots in a stretch of coastal land that was thick with drought-dry brush.

"It's nuked -- moonscaped," Lindbery told the Ventura County Star during a tour of the area.


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