City News Service

Crews Save Homes as Winds Whip Tenaja Fire

As night fell Thursday on the Tenaja Fire, residents remained worried. Calmer night winds fanned hot spots as firefighters remained vigilant.

The fire that many in Murrieta thought was dying down, popped back up, erupting with the afternoon wind shift. The so-called Tenaja fire southeast of Los Angeles grew to about 3 square miles and was 10% contained, authorities said.

Renewed winds presented challenges for firefighters as flames burned dry brush and trees near houses in the Riverside County city of Murrieta and unincorporated community of La Cresta. Two structures sustained minor damage.

The fire erupted Wednesday afternoon on rural land, and erratic winds quickly pushed flames down hills toward homes about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

"It's everywhere," said Daniel Ramos, who evacuated.

Firefighters were overcome by heavy smoke as they battled huge flames to save hundreds of homes near Montanya Place and Oak Bluff Lane.

But more than 1,000 homeowners remained under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders.

Jacob Samarin and his father, a retired firefighter, stayed behind to save their home.

"Right behind us the flames probably got 25 to 30 feet tall," he said. "Looked like our house was going."

His house was saved, thanks to firefighters.

Samarin is also training to be a firefighter just like his dad.

"They're so brave," he said of the firefighters. "Just the fact that they ran next to the flames without even a concern."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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