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Banning blaze 65 percent contained

BANNING, Calif. - Firefighters battling a nearly 3,000-acre blaze near Banning again will be contending today with gusty winds, low humidity and bone-dry vegetation, but they have made progress encircling the blaze, which fire officials say is now 65 percent contained.

The Summit Fire has scorched 2,956 acres, according to Jody Hagemann of the Riverside County Fire Department. The acreage did not increase between Wednesday night and this morning, but there was no estimate of when full containment might be achieved.

East winds of between 20 and 25 miles per hour gusting as high as 40 mph and a high temperature of 88 degrees were forecast for Banning today. Low relative humidity in the single digits or teens was expected through Saturday or Sunday, and a red flag warning was scheduled to remain in effect until 6 p.m. today, according to the National Weather Service.

About 400 firefighters were on the fire lines, Hagemann said. They came from several agencies and municipal districts in Southern California, including Riverside County, Cal Fire, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency Thursday authorized use of federal funds to help combat the fire. The authorization makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs.

The blaze broke out near North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, spread quickly through medium brush, destroyed a house at 43425 Mesa St., northwest of Banning, and left two firefighters with minor injuries, fire officials said.

An evacuation center was opened at the Banning Community Services Center, 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave. Wednesday. But evacuation orders for the 200-unit Highland Springs Mobile Home Park were rescinded late Wednesday.

An evacuation center for small animals affected by the fire was opened at San Jacinto Valley Animal Services, 581 S. Grand Ave. and a center for large animals at Noble Creek Park, 390 Oak Valley Parkway in Beaumont.

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