A wildfire driven by Santa Ana winds in the hills and canyons of Malibu that destroyed 53 homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate was fully contained Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
Forecasters, meantime, predicted that moderate Santa Ana winds and low humidity would return to Southern California late Tuesday night through early Wednesday afternoon. Los Angeles and Ventura counties were expected to see the strongest winds, with gusts up to 50 mph.
A red flag warning - meaning critical fire conditions exist - was in effect from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The strongest winds were forecast below passes and canyons from Malibu to Hollywood.
Strong Santa Ana winds whipped the Corral fire which erupted about 3:30 a.m. Saturday in Malibu. The fire burned 4,900 acres.
The last of the evacuation orders were lifted Sunday night and residents were allowed to return to their homes.
In addition to the 53 homes that were destroyed, officials reported 33 other homes were damaged, 35 outbuildings were destroyed and 12 others were damaged. Thirty-seven vehicles were also destroyed, officials said.
The cause of the blaze was caused by people in the area but it was not determined if it was deliberately set, fire officials said.
At the height of the firefight, some 1,700 firefighters battled the flames on the ground and from the air, using helicopters, air tankers and a DC-10 tanker.
Firefighters throughout Southern California were placed on alert last weekend after the forecast called for strong Santa Ana winds and low humidity – the same conditions that prompted massive wildfires throughout the region in October, including the Canyon fire in Malibu. Those fires left more than a dozen people dead, destroyed some 1,700 homes and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
The Corral fire was west of where the Canyon fire burned in Malibu in October. The Canyon fire burned 4,521 acres and damaged or destroyed 22 structures. The cost of battling that blaze, caused by downed power lines, was put at $5.8 million.