New fires break out

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — As crews gained on the wildfires in California wine country, new blazes broke out in other parts of the state, including a fire in the mountains above Los Angeles that threatened a historic observatory Tuesday and more flames in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Firefighters on the ground and in the air raced to protect the Mount Wilson Observatory and nearby communications towers from a growing brush fire northeast of LA. The blaze was initially estimated at around 5 acres. The observatory, which has been evacuated, opened in 1917 and houses the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, one of the most advanced telescopes of the first half of the 20th century.

Farther north, a fire that sprang up late Monday in the mountains of the southern Bay Area blackened at least 150 acres and threatened 150 homes, which prompted evacuation orders. Smoke was descending into the coastal beach town of Santa Cruz.

Winds remained light, but conditions were also dry. Crews dropped water on the blaze, which started as a structure fire of some kind.

“The idea is to hit it pretty hard with aircraft and hit it with ground resources at the same time,” said Rob Sherman, a division chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one who slipped down a ravine.

In the state’s wine-making region, tens of thousands of people began drifting back to their neighborhoods. Some returned to find their homes gone.

The deadliest wildfires in California history have been burning for more than a week, killing at least 41 people and destroying nearly 6,000 homes. About 34,000 people remained under evacuation Tuesday, down from 40,000 on Monday.

“It’s never going to be the same,” said Rob Brown, a supervisor in Mendocino County, where all 8,000 evacuees were cleared to go home Monday. “You’re going to have to seek a new normal.”

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