California wildfires force mass evacuations, prompt warnings of extreme danger

The Erskine Fire burns above South Lake, California, © Noah Berger
Huge wildfires burning in the mountains north of Los Angeles and near Big Sur on California’s Central Coast are posing a threat to more than 1,300 households and already caused forced evacuations of about 300 homes, according to local authorities.

A fire that erupted on Friday in the Sand Canyon area near Santa Clarita located north of Los Angeles has already incinerated some 4,450 hectares and has grown to more than eight and a half square miles. 

It already led to mandatory or voluntary evacuations of about 300 houses and continues to pose a threat to another 1000, although none of the affected homes burned, according to AP.

It has nearly tripled in size in less than a day and was only 10 percent contained, as reported by Reuters.

The fire also darkened the sky with smoke that spread across Los Angeles and its suburbs and reduced the sun to an orange disk.

“Because this is the fifth year of an ongoing drought we have a lot dry vegetation,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told a news conference, as quoted by Reuters. “Some of these fuels, they haven’t burned in decades. This fire has increased to about 11,000 acres just overnight,” he added.

“It just continues to move. It’s not slowing down,” county fire inspector Joey Marron said late Friday, as reported by AP.

Some 300 county and Angeles National Forest firefighters are battling the blaze. They are aided by almost three dozen water-dropping helicopters and eight retardant-dropping airplanes.

One firefighter sustained a light injury while no deaths have been reported, Reuters reports, citing local officials.

Another three-square-mile area is burning north of the Big Sur region. The blaze, 5 miles south of Garrapata State Park, threatens 1,000 homes and the community of Palo Colorado was ordered to evacuate, AP reports.

The recent fires are just the latest in a series of blazes this summer that have hit the drought-stricken state. They come as a ‘heat dome’ is sweeping across the US this weekend.

READ MORE: ‘Heat dome’ set to envelope US with sizzling temperatures