LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California wildfire forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes as it raged largely unchecked through densely forested mountains north of Los Angeles that last burned some 50 to 100 years ago, fire officials said on Thursday.
The blaze has scorched some 10,500 acres (4,249 hectares) since erupting Wednesday afternoon near Lake Hughes in the Angeles National Forest. As of Thursday afternoon, it remained at zero percent containment, despite a light morning rain over the area, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andrew Mitchell said.
Temperatures in the region were expected to rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit later in the day, he said.
“This will be a major fire for several days,” U.S. Forest Service regional Fire Chief Robert Garcia told reporters.
The precise cause of the blaze, dubbed the Lake Fire, was under investigation, though human activity was likely to blame, Mitchell said.
No casualties were reported but the blaze prompted the mandatory evacuation of some 500 homes in communities about 40 miles (65 km) north of downtown Los Angeles, Mitchell said.
Thick, extremely dry vegetation, some of which has not burned in about a century, was fueling the flames that roared swiftly up steep canyons and hillsides, he said.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the fire had destroyed several structures, though many were saved “because of the actions of the firefighters last night, who were up all night.”
The Angeles National Forest, covering some 700,000 acres, is a popular outdoor destination for millions who live in the sprawling L.A. metropolitan area on its southern flanks.
In drought-stricken Colorado, the Grizzly Creek Fire, burning near Glenwood Springs, about 150 miles west of Denver, has blackened 6,251 acres, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. The blaze forced officials to close a 25-mile stretch of Interstate 70, the main east-west highway through the mountain corridor.
Firefighters had zero containment, and flames threatened a power plant and some residential subdivisions, authorities said.
(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis)