Wildfires sweep California

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The Independent US

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in southern California after wildfires driven by strong winds closed in on several communities east of Los Angeles.

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in southern California after wildfires driven by strong winds closed in on several communities east of Los Angeles.

About 12,600 acres have burned since the fire started Tuesday in the hilly residential areas near the San Bernardino National Forest.

For the week, about 20,000 acres have been scorched by several fires across Southern California, most of them started deliberately.

"We got out what was important, and what's most important is us," said Christiane Elin,aged 30, who with her husband was among hundreds of people gathered at a high school serving as an evacuation centre in Rancho Cucamonga.

Ash covered cars a half-mile from the fire in San Bernardino County, and billowing clouds of black smoke hung above the heavily developed area. The California Highway Patrol temporarily closed the main route to Las Vegas.

"It looks like nighttime here," said Kelly Bocanegra, an elementary school teacher.

Firefighters supported by water-dropping aircraft battled flames in back yards in Rancho Cucamonga, where four houses were destroyed.

The fire also reached the outskirts of Fontana and Rialto in the sprawling suburbs about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

The flames were fanned by hot, dry desert winds of 25 mph and higher and were only 17 per cent contained.

Forecasters said the wind would only get stronger.

About 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of the fire, a light dusting of ash fell on Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, the scene for today's $14 million Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Horses from North America and Europe worked out under a hazy sun as a huge plume of smoke hung in the distance.

"I hope it doesn't blow this way because the air quality would certainly be a concern," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

At Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, 50 miles north of San Diego, a 4,110-acre ( brush fire was as close as a mile from scattered ranches and homes.

A 2,857-acre arson fire in the Reche Canyon area of Riverside County which was contained on Thursday destroyed five homes, a boat and several vehicles.

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