USA — A wind-driven brush fire, Southern California’s first big conflagration of the season, roared out the foothills and canyons of the Angeles National Forest on Monday, threatening hundreds of homes on the northern fringe of Los Angeles.
The blaze erupted early on Sunday and charred about 2,100 acres (850 hectares) as authorities ordered the evacuation of about 1,200 residents from more than 400 homes.
Firefighters seemed to gain an upper hand overnight before gale-force Santa Ana wind gusts from the high desert whipped up the flames anew, and by mid-morning the blaze had expanded to about 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares).
“As predicted, the Santa Ana winds did come up and blew the fire through our containment lines,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman. “Once again, Mother Nature has ruled for awhile.”
More than 1,000 firefighters from the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the National Forest Service battled the blaze, along with water-dropping helicopters and airplanes.
No injuries were reported, but authorities said at least one house, three mobile homes and several other structures were consumed in the blaze. Television station KABC-TV reported that dozens of mobile homes appeared to have been lost.
“I didn’t get to take anything with me, other than the clothes on my back,” said evacuee Rita Yates, 69, who lives alone and was ordered out of her mobile home by firefighters before dawn on Sunday. On Monday, she was staying at a makeshift evacuation center set up in a high school gymnasium.
Another evacuee, Glenn Bell, 50, said he got out of his mobile home early Monday as flames were lapping up against it.
“The sparks were flying down on us,” he said, recalling how he and other evacuees broke open a locked gate blocking their escape route. “And as I’m busting the gate … I see the cypress trees that are right next to our house on fire.”
A separate brush fire erupted in the foothills several miles (km) to the west, pouring thick smoke into the air and opening up a potentially dangerous second front for firefighters. Fire officials said people were being evacuated from hundreds of homes in that area.
The fires prompted authorities to shut down a freeway and several other roads, along with about nine public schools and a college campus in the area.
About 20 patients from convalescent hospital were moved to other facilities because of thick smoke in the vicinity.