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SD Chariot Fire

MOUNT LAGUNA (CNS) - Firefighters labored for a third straight day today to subdue a wildfire that has blackened about 4,700 acres in rugged terrain southeast of Julian, damaging or destroying at least eight structures and forcing the evacuation of scores of back-country homes along with several campgrounds.

Crews had the blaze near Mount Laguna about 15 percent contained as of early evening, Cal Fire reported. By then, decreasing winds and cooling temperatures were allowing the personnel to make better progress in slowing the spread of the flames, said Mike Mohler, a captain with the state agency.

It was unclear what type of buildings were engulfed by the blaze this afternoon, though they were in the area of several campgrounds outfitted with cabins and lodges, Mohler said.

Four crew members have suffered minor injuries -- three of them heat-related, the other a facial cut -- while battling the fire, which began spreading early Saturday afternoon east of Sunrise Highway in the Chariot Mountain area.

As the weekend came to a close, the Chariot Fire was posing imminent threats to rural communities and recreation areas, according to Cal Fire.

Authorities cleared everyone out of 20 structures potentially in the path of the flames Sunday night and from 100 others this morning, when the evacuation zone was widened to cover about three miles along Sunrise Highway.

Several hours later, the fire jumped that rural route and continued moving to the west, driven by erratic winds and high temperatures, Mohler said.

The north-south roadway was then closed between state Route 79 and Interstate 8.

Horse Heaven Campground in Cleveland National Forest was also evacuated, along with the Al Bahr Shrine, El Prado and Laguna and campgrounds and the Sierra Club's Foster Lodge.

The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for the displaced residents and campers at Joan MacQueen Middle School on Tavern Road in Alpine.

About 1,170 firefighters were working the lines today by ground and air, including personnel who had to be flown in by helicopter due to the steep and remote nature of much of the territory where the blaze was burning.

Aiding Cal Fire in the effort were the U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, and the county Fire Authority and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

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