California wildfires ravage Los Angeles communities, thousands evacuated

A wind-swept wildfire in California’s San Fernando Valley threatened several northern Los Angeles communities Friday, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of more than 1,600 homes, according to reports.

The so-called Saddleridge Brush Fire, which started in Sylmar north of downtown LA on Thursday night, spread from 60 acres to 1,600 acres within hours, according to NBC News.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the area covering about 100,000 residents.

Meanwhile, a separate fire sparked by burning trash dumped by a garbage truck destroyed dozens of homes in Riverside County and led to the evacuation of hundreds of people.

The Sandalwood fire erupted when a “trash truck dumped a load of burning trash that spread onto vegetation,” about 2 p.m. Thursday, in the community of Calimesa, about 70 miles east of LA, fire officials said.

The two conflagrations were among about 275 wildfires that have broken out across the state as hot, gusty winds signaled the start of its peak fire season, officials told Reuters.

Although firefighters quickly contained many of the other blazes, the risk to life and property has prompted Pacific Gas and Electric Co cut power to about 730,000 customers, a move that Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed on years of mismanagement by the utility.

Christie Lugo Leigh, a resident who fled the Saddleridge fire with her daughter and dog, told KTLA that “the glow that surrounded us was so bright orange, it looked like it was in our back yard.”

The wildfire, which was zero percent contained early Friday, closed the 210 freeway was closed in both directions and a truck route on the 5 freeway, NBC News reported, citing the California Highway Patrol.

In Porter Ranch, Kuriakose Chaz watched flames climb the canyon side, thinking about his home of six years just a few blocks from the houses that by 2:30 a.m. were beginning to be consumed.

“If it goes, it goes,” he told the LA Times.

Chaz, who’d gone to sleep at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, was woken up by a call about midnight from his nephew, who works for Southern California Edison and who was monitoring the blaze.

“You need to go,’” he told his uncle.

Kim Thompson, who lives in Granada Hills, took her dog out at 10 p.m. Thursday and immediately smelled the smoke.

After reading about the fire on Twitter, she evacuated her home about midnight, taking just her dog. By then, the flames were “bright orange, terrifying to look at,” she said.

She said she doubled back later to retrieve a bottle of wine. Her neighbors were less willing to evacuate.

“Up here, we’re stubborn. My neighbors are spraying their roofs right now,” she told the news outlet.

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