SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – A fast-moving brush fire sent about 2,000 people fleeing from their homes in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains north of Los Angeles on Sunday.
The blaze broke out in the Stevenson Ranch area of the Santa Clarita Valley shortly after noon and grew to 1.25 square miles in mere hours, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
More than 200 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft focused on creating a perimeter around homes that were threatened. Aerial photos showed the flames came to the property line of a ridgetop home that was covered in fire retardant.
The flames were fanned by winds gusting up to 25 mph.
"We are having to battle with Mother Nature," fire Capt. Roland Sprewell told the Los Angeles Times. "The winds are blowing and the terrain is challenging. The firefighters are in dense, heavy brush, and after a five-year drought, all this vegetation is prime and ready to burn."
By dusk, firefighters contained 15 percent of the blaze, which is burning close to Interstate 5, the main artery connecting Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. About 750 homes were evacuated, but by late Saturday residents were allowed to return home as firefighters made progress in controlling the blaze.
"The flames were jumping in circles around our house," Victor Roman told the Los Angeles Daily News after packing his valuables and making a speedy exit with his wife.
He said he saw a car crash over the side of the road at the outset of the fire and suspected the crash sparked the flames.
However, fire Inspector Gustavo Medina said the cause of the fire has not been determined.