Wildfire threat to 10,000 California homes

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The Independent US

A growing wildfire in the mountains above Los Angeles surged north yesterday, forcing more evacuations and threatening some 12,000 homes.

Residents of the small town of Acton were ordered to evacuate as the 4-day-old blaze headed into the Antelope Valley. The fire spread in all directions, leaving three people burned, destroying at least three homes and forcing thousands to flee.

"The leading edge, the one they're really focused on, is that northern edge. It's moving pretty fast up in that direction," said US Forest Service spokeswoman Randi Jorgenson. "But the fire's growing in all directions. All fronts are going to be areas of concern today."

For the third straight day, humidity was very low and temperatures were expected in the high 90s. Some 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze.

Mandatory evacuations were in effect for several communities.

More than 55 square miles of the western edge of the Angeles National Forest was scorched. The blaze was only 5 perc ent contained. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

At a news conference at the fire command post, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised firefighters for successfully protecting subdivisions in the foothills. The governor urged residents to get out when told to evacuate.

"There were people that did not listen, and there were three people that got burned and got critically injured because they did not listen," Schwarzenegger said.

The injuries occurred Saturday in the evacuation areas — two in the Big Tujunga Canyon area and one off Highway 2 near Mount Wilson, Jorgenson said. They were airlifted to local hospitals. Jorgenson had no further details on their injuries.

The flames moved swiftly along the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains despite mild winds blowing predominantly in the other direction. The fire traveled 6 to 8 miles overnight and burned as actively during the night as it does during the day, according to Capt. Mike Dietrich, the incident commander for the Forest Service. Dietrich said he had never seen a fire grow so quickly without powerful Santa Ana winds to push it.

The fire line extended about 19 miles east to west.

At least three homes deep in the Angeles National Forest were confirmed as destroyed, but firefighters were likely to find others, Dietrich said.