A wildfire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds ripped through rural land southeast of Los Angeles on Monday, forcing about 4,000 people from their homes, the fire authorities said.
The so-called Highland Fire broke out at about 12:45 a.m. in dry, bushy hills near the unincorporated Riverside County hamlet of Aguanga.
By late Monday night, it had spread over about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) of land, fire spokesman Jeff LaRusso said.
About 1,300 homes and 4,000 residents are under evacuation orders, he said.
Three buildings were destroyed in the fire, and six others were damaged, but it is not clear if there are any houses. The region is sparsely populated but has horse ranches and a large mobile home site, LaRusso said.
No injuries were reported.
Winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 kph) with some higher gusts drove the flames and embers through grass and weeds that had been dried by fresh air and low humidity, so it’s “almost like burning” for a fire, LaRusso said.
Winds are expected to die down overnight, and firefighters will try to box the fire, LaRusso said.
However, he added, “The wind is above all. Hopefully, the forecast will hold. ”
A large air tanker, bulldozers, and other resources were called in to fight the blaze, one of the few large and active blazes that have erupted so far in California’s year-round fire season, LaRusso said.
Southern California saw its first significant wind conditions in Santa Ana. Strong, hot, dry, dust-carrying winds often descend on the Pacific Coast from inland desert regions during the fall. They fueled some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in recent California history.
The National Weather Service said Riverside County could see winds of 15 to 25 mph (24 to 40 kph) through Tuesday, with gusts as high as 40 miles per hour (64 kph). The weather service has issued a red flag warning of severe fire danger through Tuesday afternoon for parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties.