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    California firefighters make gains ahead of strong winds

    VENTURA, Calif. (Reuters) – Firefighters across Southern California made progress on Saturday battling a slew of scattered wildfires that have killed at least one person, destroyed hundreds of buildings and forced more than 200,000 people from their homes this week.
    As the dry Santa Ana winds that have fueled the blazes abated slightly, officials lifted evacuation orders for parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and crews started getting the upper hand in containing some major fires.
    But with the National Weather Service expecting a pickup in top wind velocity to 55 miles per hour (89 km per hour) on Sunday from 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour), the 8,700 firefighters battling six fast-moving blazes were under pressure to work quickly.
    “We’re far from being out of the woods on any of them,” Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), told a news briefing in Ventura.
     
    At an evacuation shelter at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Saturday, fluorescent lights shone above hundreds of cots set up in rows. Outside, dust and soot made it hard to breathe.
    Surah Yasharal and Yaaqub Yoshua were at the shelter with their two toddlers, stuck there since arriving by Greyhound bus from Florida on Friday. They had planned to move into a guest house owned by Yoshua’s employer, but by Saturday they still had not learned whether it had survived.

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