Red flag warning to be lifted at 8 p.m. Sunday, fire crews may be released

ESCONDIDO (CNS) - The number of firefighters and other personnel battling the Lilac Fire reached a peak of 1,409 today and officials at the central command center say they're likely to begin releasing crews from duty now that the fire has reached 60 percent containment.

The majority of those crews Sunday worked on strengthening containment lines and putting out hot spots. The fire has largely been contained on its east side near Interstate 15.

The efforts today focused on clearing lines of brush to stop the fire in its tracks on its western side near Bonsall, officials said.

``The fire's looking really good, despite the wind,'' Cal Fire public information officer and Battalion Chief Henry Herrera said. ``If we can get through today I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the remainder of this incident.''

Firefighters learned about their duties at a 7 a.m. briefing Sunday at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, where a miniature city has been set up with one purpose: To support everything needed to completely extinguish the Lilac Fire.

Meals, hoses, breathing masks, office supplies and medical care are all available at the camp.

The "trailer city'' was set up shortly after the fire broke out, Herrera said. The blaze began at around 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, just west of I-15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa, amid gusty, arid winds. 

The fire has held at 4,100 acres since Thursday night. It has destroyed at least 182 structures and damaged 23 others. Thousands of North County residents were forced to evacuate their homes after the blaze broke out.

The agency's red flag warning will be lifted at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Herrera said that many of the firefighters expected to be released will be assigned to fight other blazes ravaging Southern California, such as the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, which is at 170,000 acres and growing.

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