By Hector Becerra and Anthony York
10:26 AM EDT, May 7, 2013
The Springs fire in Ventura County was 90% contained Tuesday morning and was expected to be completely under control by the end of the day, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze damaged 15 homes but did not destroy any buildings and only inflicted minor injuries on civilians and firefighters, officials said. The flames burned through decades-old brush around Point Mugu State Park as it scorched a path to the sea and Pacific Coast Highway.
For firefighters trying to mop up the 28,000-acre wildfire that broke out last week under blistering temperatures, the rain couldn't have come at a better time -- even if Southern California's fire season still looks to be an ominous one.
Tom Piranio, a spokesman for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that although it didn't rain enough in the Springs fire area for people to need an umbrella, it was more than enough to help firefighters slow the blaze's momentum.
"It gave the firefighters an advantage to put out hot spots and strengthen the line," Piranio said, adding that the rain and cooling made it easier on crews who for days had been working in temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, said that as of Monday morning, enough rain had fallen to push L.A.'s total to about 5.84 inches since July 1. That means the 2012-13 rain year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, is now the sixth-driest year on record, not the fourth.
With the rain, this year surpassed 1959, when 5.58 inches of rain fell, and 1899, which saw 5.59 inches. Patzert said it would take an unlikely amount of rainfall for this year to fall into seventh place, which belongs to 1924 when 6.67 inches fell.
"Rain is always good," he said. "This small May miracle couldn't have been better timed in terms of the fires, because although modest, it really gives the firefighters some help."
The Springs fire raged out of control after one of the driest winters in the 135 years since rain records have been kept for Southern California. Strong Santa Ana winds, unusual this time of the year, pushed the flames forward.
Southern California experienced an exceedingly dry stretch from January to March -- normally the region's wettest months -- and then received virtually no rainfall in April. May normally gets only about a third of an inch of rain, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
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