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updated: 5/6/2013 9:35 AM

Cause of Calif. wildfire appears accidental

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  • A firefighter stands watch as the smoke rises from the burnt area in Hidden Valley, Calif., Saturday. High winds and withering hot, dry air was replaced by the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.

      A firefighter stands watch as the smoke rises from the burnt area in Hidden Valley, Calif., Saturday. High winds and withering hot, dry air was replaced by the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- Firefighters building containment lines around a huge Southern California wildfire are now dealing with muddy and slippery conditions as rain moves in.

Ventura County Fire spokesman Tony McHale said Monday that the wet weather has significantly reduced fire activity, but it's also caused crews to work more slowly and methodically. The blaze is 80 percent contained. Officials now expect full containment late Tuesday.

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Investigators said the cause of the fire was not considered suspicious. Instead, they believed it was started by a small, "undetermined roadside ignition of grass and debris" on the edge of U.S. 101 near Thousand Oaks, said Tom Piranio, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The area near an uphill incline is considered a collection point for fuel and ignition sources, and it's possible a piece of debris fell into the tinder-dry brush early Thursday and sparked the fire, Piranio said.

"The topography plus the hot, windy weather created a perfect storm for the fire to spread fast," he said.

At its peak, the fire threatened some 4,000 homes as it moved through neighborhoods of Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks. It has caused damage to 15 homes.

The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year -- about 200 more than average.

East of Los Angeles in Riverside County, a fire that burned 510 acres south of Banning was fully contained Sunday.

In Northern California, a fire that has blackened 11 square miles of wilderness in Tehama County was a threat to a pair of commercial properties near the community of Butte Meadows, according to Cal Fire.

Thunderstorms were expected to bring erratic winds but little rain to the area about 200 miles north of San Francisco.

Nearly 1,300 firefighters were on the lines and the blaze, which started Wednesday, was 40 percent contained.

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