California firefighters battle giant blaze

Thousands of people were evacuated today as California firefighters battled to save homes from a wildfire that grew rapidly during the night.

Thousands of people were evacuated today as California firefighters battled to save homes from a wildfire that grew rapidly during the night.

A man was charged with setting the blaze.

The El Cerrito fire, in suburban Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, had burned across 5,000 acres and was only 10% contained.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 homes were evacuated since midnight because they were threatened by the blaze, said Rick Griggs, an engineer with the California Department of Forestry.

Griggs said he had unconfirmed reports that four buildings had been destroyed or damaged.

Richard Drew Brown was arrested and charged with “recklessly causing the fire with equipment,” said Andy Spada, a CDF spokesman.

Southern California’s 2004 fire season was officially opened on Monday with a record temperatures above 100F.

Thousands of firefighters were on the job and nearly a dozen had been treated for heat stroke, dehydration or injuries.

At least two people fleeing a fire in the Los Padres National Forest were treated for smoke inhalation and cuts and bruises.

The Temecula fire, south-east of Los Angeles, had burned 3,900 acres by early today.

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