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Brush fire from plane crash menaces California homes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A brush fire ignited by the fatal crash of a small plane near the mountain town of Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles, threatened hundreds of homes for a second day on Monday as it charred more than 4,700 acres, fire officials said.

Some 600 firefighters backed by water-dropping helicopters and bulldozers battled the blaze, managing by early Monday to carve containment lines around 5 percent of its perimeter in steep, rugged terrain, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported.

At least one large tanker plane dumping payloads of fire-retardant chemicals also joined the aerial assault on the blaze, said Captain Mark Whaling, a spokesman for the fire management team.

The blaze was sparked late on Sunday morning when a single-engine plane crashed near Tehachapi, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles, killing the pilot and a second person aboard, Whaling told Reuters.

The ensuing fire quickly engulfed one nearby home, and by Monday continued to threaten about 650 dwellings, including an unspecified number of residences placed under evacuation orders in an area of rural canyons and ranches to the south and west of Tehachapi, Whaling said.

Only one person, a member of the firefighting team, was reported injured so far, Whaling said, but he had no further details.

He said the fire, fanned by erratic winds, was burning through a wide variety of vegetation in the area, ranging from grass to scrubland and old-growth timber.

"This is one of the more active fires in California today," he said, adding that firefighters had observed flames leaping 200 feet to 300 feet in the air as the blaze topped some ridges on Sunday.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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