SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 3, 2013

Thousands evacuated as crews fight Calif. wildfire

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire that destroyed at least six homes, damaged 15 others and threatened hundreds more grew quickly yesterday as it triggered evacuations for nearly 3,000 people and burned dangerously close to communities in the parched mountains north of Los Angeles.

The blaze had burned about 40 square miles of very dry brush in the Angeles National Forest mountains and canyons, some of which hadn’t burned since 1929. The fire was growing so fast, and the smoke was so thick, that it was difficult to map the size, U.S. Forest Service Incident Commander Norm Walker said.

“This is extremely old, dry fuel,” Walker said at an afternoon news conference.

The fire, which was 20 percent contained, appeared to be the fiercest of several burning in the West, including two in New Mexico, where thick smoke covered several communities and set a blanket of haze over Santa Fe on Saturday.

Crews fighting the two uncontained wildfires focused yesterday on building protection lines around them amid anticipation that a forecast of storms could bring moisture to help reduce the intensity of the fires.

The fire raging in Southern California had crews fighting the fire on four fronts, with the flames spreading quickest northward into unoccupied land, authorities said. But populated areas about 50 miles north of downtown LA remained in danger, with more than 2,800 people and 700 homes under evacuation orders in the communities of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth, sheriff’s Lt. David Coleman said.

They wouldn’t be allowed to return home until at least today and possibly tomorrow, Coleman said.

About 2,100 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft, some of which were making the rare move of flying through the night, were attacking the blaze.

“We’re putting everything that we have into this,” Walker said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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