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Hundreds flee fast-moving wildfire near LA

July 24, 2016

Hundreds of California residents have fled their homes due to a quickly expanding wildfire in the foothills near Los Angeles. So far, firefighters have only managed to contain 10 percent of the blaze.

Flames close in on homes at the Sand Fire on July 23 2016 near Santa Clarita, California
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Mcnew

Wildfires in California blaze on

Wildfires in the mountains north of Los Angeles, California, burned out of control on Saturday, threatening thousands of homes, fire officials said.

The so-called Sand Fire grew to 20,000 acres (around 31 square miles) and has already forced around 300 people to evacuate their homes near Santa Clarita, a city just 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

By Saturday afternoon the fire posed a risk to an additional 1,000 homes, said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp.

"But if we were to get very extreme fire behavior, we're up to 45,000 homes ... mainly down in the San Fernando Valley," Tripp said.

Around 900 firefighters were working to contain the blaze in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) with the help of 28 helicopters and eight aircraft dropping water and fire repellent.

Despite their efforts, firefighters estimated only 10 percent of the blaze had been contained by Saturday evening. Officials blamed the fire's fast expansion on a five-year drought which has left the foothills bone dry and helped the blaze grow by 11,000 acres overnight.

Plumes of smoke from the fast-moving fires hovered over Los Angeles on Saturday, blocking the sun to a mere orange disk at times. The South Coast Air Quality Management District

Pictures of the blaze on social media show the fire burning brightly in the foothills, inching closer to the city of Santa Clarita. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke warning, saying that the air conditions will be unhealthy at times.

So far, no casualties have been reported and no structures have been destroyed by Sand Fire blaze.

Up the Californian coast, hundreds of firefighters battled a separate blaze in the area near Big Sur. That fire posed a threat to 1,000 homes and had spread across 10 square miles.

Another wildfire in central California destroyed 150 homes and killed at least two people in June.

rs/rc (AP, Reuters)