A wind-driven wildfire in Santa Ana ravaged a rural area southeast of Los Angeles, California, on Monday and forced 4,000 people to flee their homes, according to authorities.
The so-called “Highland” fire started around 12:45 a.m. in the dry, brush-covered hills near Aguanga, an unincorporated town in Riverside County.
As of Monday night, it occupied an area of about 5 square kilometers, fire spokesman Jeff LaRusso said.
The evacuation orders, which remained in effect on Tuesday, affected about 1,300 homes and 4,000 residents, he added.
The fire destroyed three buildings and damaged six others, but it was not immediately determined if they were homes. The region is sparsely populated, but is home to horse ranches and a large mobile home area, the spokesman said.
Winds between 20 and 25 miles per hour, with some stronger gusts, spread flames and embers through grass and brush dried by fresh air and low humidity, which could burn the fire, LaRusso said.
The electric company Southern California Edison is analyzing the cutting of electricity to 144,000 customers in six counties to avoid possible fires if the wind destroys the equipment.
The National Weather Service predicted winds of 24 to 40 kilometers per hour with gusts up to 80 kilometers per hour. The strongest winds are predicted for the foothills and adjacent valleys.
Winds are expected to calm overnight and firefighters will try to contain the fire, LaRusso said.
However, he added that “the wind will overcome everything. Hopefully the forecast will come true.”
A large air tanker, bulldozers and other machinery were brought in to fight the blaze, one of the few large, active fires to break out so far in California, where the fire season lasts all year. , LaRusso said.
Santa Ana’s strong dry and dusty winds usually reach the Pacific Coast from the desert regions of the land during the fall. They fueled some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in recent California history.
The weather service has issued a severe fire danger warning for parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties