Wildfires Endanger Southern California Residents

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A wind-whipped brush fire quickly doubled in size early Thursday to more than 7,000 acres, destroying at least one home and prompting evacuations from a ridge of flames that 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 (search). Several communities 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 (search) 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.

Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Ron Haralson said more than 700 firefighters were on the scene. One firefighter was struck on the head by a 40-pound boulder and was taken to a hospital, Capt. Carlos Calvillo said Wednesday.

The fire was only 5 percent contained early Thursday, authorities said.

A blaze in Riverside County (search), meanwhile, spread over 1,330 acres between the cities of Redlands and Moreno Valley, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. That fire destroyed three chicken coops at a ranch believed to have housed 70,000 to 90,000 chickens.

So far this year, wildfires have charred 8.16 million acres nationwide, compared with 7.74 million acres at the same time last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (search).