LOS ANGELES – A wind-whipped 17,000-acre wildfire (search) raced across hills and canyons along the city's northwestern edge Thursday, threatening homes and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.
Some 3,000 firefighters aided by aircraft struggled to protect ridgetop houses along the Los Angeles-Ventura county line, a rugged, brushy landscape west of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley (search). Officials said the blaze was 5 percent contained as it burned toward such communities as Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Calabasasrous homes were evacuated in nine areas, and the Red Cross (search) reported 500 people were staying at five of its shelters.
At least one home and five other structures were lost, but 2,000 buildings had been saved by firefighters, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.
"We are guardedly optimistic, if the weather cooperates, if the public cooperates," Yaroslavsky said. "This may end well for all of us, but weather is unpredictable in these parts and everyone needs to be on guard."
Temperatures were in the high 90s and conditions were dry. Some gusts were reported on the fire lines, but there was no reappearance of the strong winds from the interior that fanned a small brush fire into a conflagration on Wednesday.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Historically, some fires in the region have turned and burned through the Santa Monica Mountains to Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.
Authorities said residents took evacuation orders seriously in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"I wasn't going to get stupid about it. There was only one way out, and it was getting real hot," said Jeff Johns, 48.
About 45 evacuees gathered at Canoga Park High School in the San Fernando Valley, where the Red Cross had set up cots and provided meals.
"Our house is still OK, but, oh, God, it's not a good feeling," said Phil Goldenberg, 53, who was at the school's gym with his wife and son.
Another large wildfire in Southern California was 25 percent contained after burning 1,160 acres in Riverside County. No homes were threatened.
So far this year, wildfires have charred 8.16 million acres nationwide, compared with 7.74 million acres by the same time last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.