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California fires could burn for days, official says

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  • NEW: Search of mobile home park ends; no one found dead
  • More than 900 homes, structures destroyed by three fires
  • Single-digit humidity, wind gusts pose problems for firefighters
  • Santa Barbara County fire has human cause, officials say
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Firefighters will need at least until midweek to get control of wildfires that have destroyed more than 900 homes and other structures in Southern California, a Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman says.

High winds have fanned blazes from Santa Barbara to Anaheim since Thursday, scorching an estimated 40,900 acres of land. Sustained winds eased Monday, but locally gusty conditions and humidity in the single-digit range could continue into Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicted.

"If we were being very optimistic, we would be looking at the middle of the week," Los Angeles County fire Capt. Dennis Cross said. "If the weather forecast holds and we continue to get the great work being done in the last 24 hours, we're hoping midweek."

The most extensive losses have been in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in the Sylmar district of Los Angeles, where winds clocked as high as 70 mph drove a wall of flames across the hillsides and destroyed nearly 500 of the park's 608 mobile homes on Saturday. Map shows fire's devastation

A two-day search that ended Monday found no human remains amid the scorched wreckage, authorities said. But Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said authorities still haven't accounted for the residents of 166 homes, and he wanted them to check in with investigators.

"Help us bring full closure to this," Moore said Monday evening.Video Watch how fires destroyed hundreds of homes »

Moore said residents of the mobile home park would be allowed to return Tuesday "to come in and collect their belongings."

The largest of three fires, the Freeway Complex fire, had set ablaze nearly 29,000 acres in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Most of the damage was in Orange County, in the Los Angeles suburbs of Anaheim and Yorba Linda, where more than 100 homes were destroyed.

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Fire officials said the blaze, with 3,700 firefighters and other emergency personnel battling it, was about 40 percent contained Monday. Video Watch how it may take days to contain fires »

iReporter Carol Menke said she last saw her home in the Hollydale Mobile Home Estates in Brea Canyon around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

"I know our firefighters are the best and the bravest in the world, but that wall of fire looked insurmountable," she said at the time. 'Insurmountable' wall of flames looms

Firefighters on Sunday night told Menke that one home was destroyed and one damaged in Hollydale, but neither was hers. See damage in Sylmar via satellite photography »

"I am so thankful that I am at a loss for words. My heart goes out to those not as fortunate," she said.

The Sayre fire, which destroyed the mobile home park in Los Angeles' Sylmar district, was about 40 percent contained Monday morning after burning about 10,000 acres. Five firefighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries in the blaze, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported. Photo See images from the Los Angeles County fire »

In Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, firefighters said they had a wildfire 95 percent contained after it destroyed more than 100 homes. Among the losses in the 1,900-plus acres it incinerated were a monastery and several mansions in a community where celebrities have homes.

The fire destroyed the $11 million Montecito, California, home of Christopher Lloyd, star of "Back to the Future" and "Taxi." He showed the charred remnants to ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday. Lloyd talks about his destroyed home

"It's amazing, its just gone," Lloyd told "Good Morning America." "Rebuilding would be -- it's too much. You can't rebuild that."

Investigators believe the Santa Barbara County blaze was "human-caused," having eliminated "all accidental causes," said Doug Lannon, a spokesman for the state fire agency. Share wildfire photos, video


Authorities said they believe the fire started in the Tea Garden Estate, a privately owned multiple-acre property about one mile north of Santa Barbara's exclusive Westmont College. Although the fire did not hit the college campus, 15 faculty members lost their homes nearby, according to the college's Web site.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared states of emergency for the four affected counties after the fire damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and closed major freeways. The move frees any state resources needed, and makes the counties eligible for federal assistance grants.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom contributed to this report.

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