The Associated Press

MOORPARK, Calif. (AP) -- Firefighters are stepping up their attack on the blaze burning in the mountains of Ventura County as hot and dry winds die down in Southern California.

Fire officials sent hand crews up into the hills to carve firebreaks on the northeastern and western flanks of the 27-square-mile fire, said Ventura County Fire spokesman Bill Nash. The blaze was 65 percent surrounded and about 2,750 personnel were assigned to the fire Friday.

"We have an army of firefighters on the fire right now," Nash said.

A break in the heat and low humidity helped slow the flames. Nash said relative humidity dropped to three percent Thursday morning.

"But we're getting pretty much nothing but good news on weather right now. We're still expecting heat but we've lost that wind component and that's a huge help," he said.

The fire erupted Tuesday north of the city of Moorpark and has spread through hills, mountains and agricultural lands, including avocado orchards. Two outbuildings have been destroyed and 75 homes, along with oil production sites and electrical transmission lines, remained threatened.

The fire began near an agricultural mulch pile, but the cause remained under investigation, authorities said.

About 35 miles to the east, the once-massive Station fire that killed two firefighters, incinerated 89 homes and burned 251-square-miles of forest still smoldered.

Officials said the Station fire was 98 percent contained but won't be fully surrounded until the season's first rain, said Forest Service fire spokesman Bob Poole.

Fire officials had anticipated completely containing the fire by midnight Thursday, but Poole said they backed off their goal when they realized that they couldn't get crews into parts of the fire perimeter in rough terrain.

"They tried to get in there but it's just vertical there," he said. "That doesn't mean we don't have some sort of precaution there. We have retardant but not a line."

Firefighters are expanding the fire break with the objective of constructing a 500-foot wide line around the burned area. About 700 firefighters and nine helicopters are involved in the mop-up operations.

Southern California's rainy season usually begins in November, but precipitation varies from year to year.

Elsewhere in Southern California, San Bernardino County authorities said a 16-year-old boy may have been involved in starting up to 14 wildfires in the inland region east of Los Angeles since 2006.

The youth was arrested near a new fire Wednesday near Yucaipa and was booked into juvenile hall for investigation of arson. The district attorney's office was awaiting reports before considering charges.

A 347-acre fire in Yucaipa was 90 percent contained, spokesman Bill Peters said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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