LOS ANGELES (AP) - The western flank of the deadly wildfire north of Los Angeles was under control Saturday, sparing foothill communities further threat as it burned east into a large wilderness area.
Investigators, meanwhile, were trying to determine who ignited the blaze that killed two firefighters, destroyed at least 76 homes and burned nearly 242 square miles of the Angeles National Forest.
The fire's origin near Angeles Crest Highway remained cordoned off as authorities sought more clues in the case, but they were hesitant to release any findings to the media.
"Arsonists are not stupid. They can read," said U.S. Forest Service Cmdr. Rita Wears, who supervises federal agents investigating the fire. "I have to be very careful."
Los Angeles County firefighters Tedmund Hall and Arnaldo Quinones were killed Aug. 30 while seeking an escape route for their inmate fire crew after flames overran their camp on Mount Gleason.
Sheriff's detectives opened a homicide investigation after the fire was ruled arson earlier this week, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has offered $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprit.
The fire, one of the largest in Southern California history, was 49 percent contained Saturday night after crews built protective lines on the northwestern flank near Santa Clarita, said incident commander Mike Dietrich.
"We're making tremendous progress," Dietrich said, "but we have not turned the corner on this fire. I keep seeing that it's out there, but we have not turned the corner yet."
Dietrich said about 400 firefighters assigned to protect structures had been dismissed because of the reduced threat. About 4,800 firefighters remained.
Despite the gains, two new flare-ups presented challenges. The fire jumped a closed section of the closed Angeles Crest Highway and burned about 500 new acres in the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness Area, Dietrich said. Flames were within about five miles of the community of Juniper Hills and firefighters will make the area their primary focus into the night.
Dietrich said crews also were fending off new fire activity on the southeastern end of the fire and trying to keep the blaze from burning into Santa Anita Canyon and Chantry Flats north of Arcadia and Monrovia.
And firefighters were trying to slow the eastern movement into the San Gabriel Wilderness and secure the southeastern flank north of Arcadia, Monrovia. No homes were immediately threatened in either area, he said.