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Firefighters gaining ground on California blazes

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- California firefighters took advantage of cooler weather Wednesday morning as they worked to surround a wildfire that blackened nearly 3 square miles of forest in the mountains above Santa Barbara.

The fire was 90 percent contained and new measuring reduced its estimated size slightly to 1,984 acres, Andrew Madsen, a spokesman with the U.S Forest Service, said.

Some 600 firefighters, aided by air tankers, hoped to use cool morning weather to gain ground on the blaze in the Santa Ynez Mountains before afternoon temperatures soared to around 90, Madsen said.

"We're getting some fresh crews on the line, and they're going to work as fast and hard as we can before we get into those hot hours," Madsen said.

The blaze that erupted Monday afternoon was wind-driven, but winds Wednesday were expected to remain light to moderate.

"The weather's cooperating right now in this firefight," he said.

Crews planned to concentrate on the active northeastern flank of the fire.

At its peak, the blaze raced through a section of Los Padres National Forest, threatened some 50 homes and cabins and prompted campground evacuations.

The campgrounds remain closed, but the home evacuations were called off Tuesday evening.

A second wildfire broke out Tuesday afternoon in the nearby wine country hills of Santa Ynez and burned through 170 acres of land before it was knocked down.

Despite its bucolic setting, the area 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles has seen terrible wildfires, including a 1990 blaze that destroyed 641 structures, most of them homes. The summer of 2007 was marred by a gigantic fire that erupted on July 4 and burned for months.

Elsewhere, a 149-acre wildfire that erupted near the Magic Mountain theme park north of Los Angeles was contained without causing any building damage.

In San Diego County, a fire that burned more than 1,000 acres of remote land southeast of Julian was 85 percent contained.

Investigators determined Tuesday that recreational shooting sparked the blaze on Sunday.

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