Thousands flee homes as wildfire rages on edge of LA

Thousands flee homes as wildfire rages on edge of LA

Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes as firefighters battle a wildfire raging on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

The blaze erupted late on Thursday along the northern tier of the San Fernando Valley as powerful Santa Ana winds swept Southern California, fanning several destructive blazes.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire had grown to more than six square miles before dawn on Friday and an estimated 12,700 homes are under evacuation orders.

Helicopters made repeated water drops as crews on the ground attacked flames in and around homes, though a number of properties have been destroyed.

Evacuations are also still in effect in the inland region east of Los Angeles where a fire erupted on Thursday and raged through a mobile home park in the Calimesa area of Riverside County.

Seventy-four buildings were destroyed, others were damaged and Riverside County authorities are trying to determine if anyone is missing.

Fire danger is high throughout Southern California after the typically dry summer and early autumn, and the notorious Santa Ana winds – linked to the spread of many wildfires – bring a dangerous mix of witheringly low humidity levels and powerful gusts.

The Calimesa fire erupted when the driver of a commercial rubbish truck dumped a smouldering load to prevent the vehicle from catching fire.

Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California (David Swanson/AP)
Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California (David Swanson/AP)

Dry grass quickly ignited and winds gusting to 50mph blew the fire into the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, about 75 miles east of central Los Angeles. The park has 110 home sites and was built in 1958, according to its website.

About 160 students sheltered in place as smoke enveloped nearby Mesa View Middle School before buses arrived and evacuated them to another school outside the fire zone.

Linda Klosek, 70, and her daughter Stacey Holloway, 43, had gone shopping and were on their way back to Villa Calimesa when they saw their neighbours evacuating.

Ms Klosek said: “You couldn’t even see anything, the smoke was so thick.

They watched on TV from an evacuation centre as flames destroyed their home.

“When you’re watching it, it’s like someone else’s home,” Ms Holloway said.

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