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Southern California wildfire rages unchecked after evacuations

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-08-18 09:52

Southern California wildfire rages unchecked after evacuations

A hot shot crew member waits while battling the Blue Cut fire near Wrightwood, California US, August 17, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - A Southern California wildfire raged unchecked in thick brush on Wednesday after destroying dozens of houses near a highway corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and forcing as many as 80,000 residents to flee their homes, officials said.

The so-called Blue Cut Fire ignited on Tuesday in the mountainous Cajon Pass and quickly ballooned to 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares), putting firefighters on the defensive.

Fire officials described the blaze as unusually fierce, even for a year of intense wildfires in the US West, where years of drought have dried trees and brush and placed a heavy burden on firefighting resources.

"In my 40 years of fighting fire, I've never seen fire behavior so extreme as it was yesterday," Michael Wakoski, the incident commander on the fire, said on Wednesday at a news conference.

As many as eight wildland fires were burning in California on Wednesday, three of them scorching thousands of acres as firefighters sought help from emergency responders from other states and the California National Guard.

Given the dryness and ongoing warm weather, US government forecasters have said Southern California faces a potential threat from major wildfires until December.

Santa Ana winds, which sweep desert air to California's coast while driving the fires, are due to kick up next month, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal-Fire) spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said by phone. September and October are often the peak of the state's wildfire season.

The Blue Cut Fire, named for a narrow gorge north of San Bernardino where it started, was zero percent contained as it threatened the town of Wrightwood near a ski resort and other communities in a partly rural area, authorities said.

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