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Firefighters battle blaze in Cleveland National Forest

Smoke billows from a wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest on March 2, 2022.
Courtesy of USDA Forest Service
Smoke billows from a wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest on March 2, 2022.

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters on the ground and in the air battled a smoky wildfire Wednesday in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest.

The fire was reported around 11:20 a.m. in the Holy Jim Trail area and by 2 p.m. had consumed about 400 acres (162 hectares) of brush along steep slopes.

Forward progress had slowed by about 3:30 p.m., national forest officials said.

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More than 100 firefighters were dispatched, with air tankers and helicopters dropping water and retardant on the blaze, dubbed the Jim Fire.

No structures were threatened. The fire sent up a huge plume of smoke visible across Orange County and beyond.

It erupted on the last day of a winter heat wave, with temperatures in the 80s (about 29 Celsius) and very dry humidity levels. Rain and cooler temperatures were expected on Thursday.

The fire's cause was under investigation.