Thousands of firefighters battle fast-spreading wildfire near Los Angeles
More than 1,600 firefighters battled on Monday to contain a fast-spreading wildfire that has forced hundreds of evacuations in the drought-parched canyons north of Los Angeles, destroying 18 homes, killing at least one person and closing a highway.
Authorities said the Sand Fire had grown to more than 33,000 acres (13,300 hectares) by early Monday, or more than 50 square miles (130 square km), fueled by high winds and parched conditions after years of drought.
It was threatening a string of small communities near Santa Clarita, just outside the Angeles National Forest, the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department said.
“This is the fifth year of an ongoing drought, so we have very extreme fire behavior,” the fire department chief, Daryl Osby told a Sunday news conference. “These are not normal times.”
A 10,262-acre (4,155-hectare) fire was also burning in a coastal area of Monterey county, 300 miles (480 km) northwest of Santa Clarita, prompting authorities to widen evacuation orders to several communities on Sunday, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said.
One person suffered non-life-threatening injuries and one structure was destroyed, the spokeswoman, Amber Anderson, said.
The fire near Santa Clarita, first reported on Friday afternoon, has forced at least 1,500 residents to evacuate their homes and destroyed at least 18 homes, the Los Angeles county fire department said in a statement.
All the affected communities, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of Los Angeles, are in or around the San Gabriel Mountains, which is dotted with multimillion-dollar homes.
About 100 commercial buildings in the path of the fire have been ordered to evacuate, fire officials said.
An “unexpected wind event” forced officials to cancel plans for residents to return to some areas, fire officials said on social media network Twitter on Sunday.
“All evacuations will remain in place,” they added.
The 14 Freeway was closed to traffic because of the fire threat, the California Highway Patrol said on Twitter.
The remains of an unidentified person were found late on Saturday in a charred vehicle in the path of the blaze. The cause of death had yet to be decided, fire officials said.
Extreme heat, strong winds and parched rugged terrain will continue to hamper firefighters, the officials said, adding that they were still trying to pinpoint the cause of the wildfire, which had been only 10 percent contained by early on Monday.