Firefighters contain 60 percent of LA-area fire

LOS ANGELES - September 8, 2009 U.S. Forest Service spokesman Tom Debellis said Tuesday that the 251-square-mile fire is burning deeper into the wilderness of the Angeles National Forest.

Officials say crews aided by waterdropping aircraft are focusing on keeping the fire from moving farther east. No homes are threatened.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Fire officials tried to stay aggressive in stunting the growth of a huge wildfire north of Los Angeles, but the flames and the winds that fanned them have proved unpredictable.

More than half of the stubborn fire was surrounded Monday, but plans to set preventive backfires had to be scrapped with a new flare-up in yet another area. Fire officials canceled plans to burn out brush and create a buffer south of the ferocious fire to protect the foothill neighborhoods of the San Gabriel Valley.

Incident Commander Mike Dietrich said late Monday that the weather - including 30-40 mph winds and 10 percent humidity - didn't cooperate, and the aircraft needed to support and monitor the burnout operations were diverted to the fire's northeastern flank.

The blaze was 56 percent contained and had blackened 157,220 acres, or 246 square miles, as it burned deeper into the wilderness.

"Even the mountain goats won't climb in there because it's so steep and rugged," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County sheriff's and fire investigators continued their homicide investigation into the fire. Officials have said the cause of the fire was arson but have released no other findings.

Los Angeles County firefighters Tedmund Hall and Arnaldo Quinones were killed in a truck accident Aug. 30 while seeking an escape route for their inmate fire crew after flames overran their camp.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the men's vehicle was airlifted off a mountain and taken to a secure location Monday so investigators could analyze it. The examination of the site where the fire started near the Angeles Crest Highway wrapped up Monday, he said.

Damage assessment teams counted 78 homes, two commercial buildings and dozens of outbuildings destroyed by the flames, and 11 firefighters have been injured. The fire was expected to be fully contained Sept. 15.

The temporary city that sprang up to house, bathe and feed about 4,600 firefighters will be relocated Tuesday from a large park in the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles to another park near Irwindale to the east, closer to the active fire.

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