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Summit Fire in California 40 percent contained, but forecast causes concern (+video)

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(Read caption) Firefighter spokesman: Heed all evacuation warnings
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Firefighters partially contained a southern California brush fire Wednesday night, but state fire officials worry it will spread faster Thursday because of forecasted 90-degree temperatures and 50-mile-per-hour winds.

The so-called Summit Fire, which has destroyed one home and left two firefighters with minor injuries, broke out about noon on Wednesday. Fire officials evacuated about 500 residents in Banning, Calif., located 90 miles east of Los Angeles. The fire burned roughly 3,000 acres, and firefighters had contained 40 percent as of Thursday morning.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) issued statewide warnings for “extreme fire danger” Wednesday, as a dry winter, warm temperatures, and high winds have created model wildfire conditions.

“The grass, brush, and trees are very volatile. They’re ready to burn,” CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said. “Everything is just very dry. And not just in southern California, statewide.”

The agency has responded to more than 680 wildfires this year, 200 more than the average for the period, CAL FIRE told the Los Angeles Times.

Low rainfall levels from January to April could create one of the driest years on record in California, according to a survey by the Department of Water Resources. The snowpack is only 52 percent of the statewide average.

“We’re a bit drier than normal at this time and seeing conditions that we would usually see in June,” state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. “If this is an indicator of what’s to come, then we’re going to be in for a very busy fire season.”

Winds at the fire site north of Banning increased Thursday morning, Riverside County fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann said. Crews made progress on the 4-1/2-square-mile blaze overnight, but the winds could change that.

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