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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

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Thursday
May022013

Spring Wildfires Threaten Hundreds of Homes in California 

File photo. (David McNew/Getty Images)(RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif.) -- A fast-moving wildfire in Riverside County, Calif., has jeopardized hundreds of homes, torching at least one structure Wednesday and forcing some evacuations.

Winds up to 35 mph and dry conditions in the region fueled the blaze, where more than 500 firefighters, aided by air support, rushed to contain the blaze.

"We're going to have to monitor the situation. If the winds get much more severe, we may get to a point where the air tankers will be ineffective so we do have to be aware of that," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said Wednesday afternoon.

Federal officials had just released their fire season forecast Wednesday, saying above normal fire potential exists for the West. Noting that there were actually several small wildfires burning throughout the state, Hutchinson said these types of fires usually occur around September or October.

"We are definitely being put to the test," she said, adding, "For anybody living in the fire areas you know in the West, this is a wake-up call. You know, we've been talking with all the agencies about the fact this is a very dry potential for a lot of fires this year and we're seeing that happening very early."
 
There also was increased concern about livestock and other animals in evacuated structures threatened by the wildfire, as many owners were still at work as the blaze spread. John Welsh of the Riverside Department of Animal Services says they've opened up an emergency shelter to help residents with animals.
 
"We'll be caring for animals there as people kind of deal with whatever emergencies they have to deal with," Welsh said Wednesday.
 
"That's why we always recommend folks to have microchips because animals will flee themselves sometimes in danger or they'll get -- a fence will get opened up by, you know, emergency personnel and dogs will run," he added.
 
A smoke advisory for the region has been issued for Wednesday night. State Official Sam Atwood says the air quality can reach up to unhealthy levels or even higher in those areas directly impacted by smoke.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio