U.S. Forest Service firefighters watch the smoke and flames of a wildfire in Wrightwood, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Francis Specker)

Weather aids defense of Californiamountain town

WRIGHTWOOD ? Firefighters made progress Monday against a wildfire near a Southern California mountain town as weather turned calm and cool.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for several thousand residents of the Wrightwood area but there was little flame visible in the burn area covering 7,500 acres, or 12 square miles, on the east end of the San Gabriel Mountains about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

"It's mostly smoldering," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Robin Prince.

Winds were about 6 mph, down from 50 mph over the weekend, and temperatures were cool.

Containment remained at 20 percent but the fire was not expected to jump its existing perimeter unless significant new winds developed, Prince said. Nearby schools were closed Monday.

Most residents appeared to have heeded warnings to leave. Three homes had been destroyed in remote canyons but none in Wrightwood.

Wrightwood, which sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet and has many year-round residents, draws daytrippers to quaint eateries and is a popular kickoff point for hiking and skiing. Houses sit in rustic settings among towering pines.

The fire erupted Saturday afternoon near the community of Lytle Creek amid strong winds. Lone Pine Canyon funneled flames like a chimney northwestward toward Wrightwood. Helitankers and retardant-dropping aircraft battled the fire from above while backfires were set along the town's east edge.

The cause remained under investigation.

In Arizona, authorities lifted an evacuation order Monday morning for 64 homes that had been threatened by a wildfire near the scenic city of Williams, about 120 miles north of Phoenix. The blaze began as a prescribed burn that grew out of control and threatened the community known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon."

Fire officials said the fire was 10 percent to 15 percent contained, after scorching about 1,000 acres, or more than 1? square miles on Bill Williams Mountain.

Crews were working to strengthen containment lines as forecasts called for wind gusts as high as 26 mph Monday.

"We had a little bit of cloud cover and that did help moderate fire activity, but we still had the winds," said Punky Moore, a Kaibab National Forest spokeswoman. "That's a concern. We just don't want any fire outside of the lines."

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