Wind-driven brush fires burned on the wildland quickly tripled in size early Thursday to more than 9,300 acres, destroying at least one home and prompting evacuations as a ridge of flames was visible for miles.
The blaze burned to the edge of a number of multimillion-dollar homes that abut rural, picturesque hillsides in the San Fernando Valley. Homes in several communities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties were evacuated, but officials did not release an exact number.
"Our house is still OK, but oh, God, it's not a good feeling," said Phil Goldenberg, 53, who was at an evacuation shelter at Canoga Park High School with his wife and son.
Late Wednesday night, bright red flames 10 to 15 feet high stretched several miles across much of the western edge of the valley.
"It's pretty hard to deal with when it's dry brush and dry fuel. There's not a lot you can do to stop it," said Paul Shakstad of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Fire officials confirmed that one home had been destroyed, although two structures that appeared to be homes could be seen burning in a news broadcast, reports the AP.
According to LA Times, fire departments had been warning for months that the near-record rains Southern California experienced last winter had led to thick growths of brush, creating conditions for a severe fire season. Several of the most destructive wildfire seasons on record have come after winters of heavy rain, including in 1993, when hundreds of homes were lost in Laguna Beach and Malibu.
Firefighters fought the flames by ground and by air. As helicopters dropped water on the dry brush, firetrucks navigated narrow canyon roads. In at least one case, firefighters rushed into a home where embers had set the attic on fire. The home appeared to be damaged but not gutted.
"It's pretty bad here. There's a lot of smoke, and ashes are falling," said Marvin Boles, who lives in the Box Canyon area, where firefighters had called for voluntary evacuation.
Even so, Boles said, he and some of his neighbors were staying put as they watched the orange glow of the fire in the distance.
"I'm never leaving. I've been here 15 years," said Boles, adding that spectators had come to watch the flames jump through the canyons. "These rocks above us are filled with people. They've all come here to see what's happening."