Wildfire in Southern California prompts evacuation order for thousands as Santa Ana winds fuel flames – News21USA

Firefighters are battling a wildfire fueled by gusty Santa Ana winds that is ravaging rural land southeast of Los Angeles, forcing about 4,000 people from their homes.

AGUANGA, California — A wildfire fueled by gusty Santa Ana winds tore through rural land southeast of Los Angeles on Monday, forcing about 4,000 people from their homes, fire officials said.

The so-called Highland Fire broke out around 12:45 p.m. in dry, brush-covered hills near the unincorporated village of Aguanga in Riverside County.

By late Monday night, it had spread over about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) of land, fire spokesman Jeff LaRusso said.

About 1,300 homes and 4,000 residents were under evacuation orders, he said.

The fire destroyed three buildings and damaged six others, but it was unclear if any of them were homes. The region is sparsely populated, but there are horse ranches and a large lot for mobile homes, LaRusso said.

No injuries were reported.

Winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 kph), with some stronger gusts, pushed flames and embers through grass and brush that had been dried by recent winds and low humidity, so which was “almost like firewood” for the fire. LaRusso said.

Winds were expected to ease somewhat overnight and fire crews would attempt to put out the fire, LaRusso said.

But he added: “The wind triumphs over everything. I hope the forecast comes true.”

A large tanker truck, excavators and other resources were called in to battle the fire, one of the few large, active fires that have broken out so far in California’s year-round fire season, LaRusso said.

Southern California was experiencing its first significant wind condition in Santa Ana. Strong, hot, dry, dust-laden winds typically descend on the Pacific Coast from inland desert regions during the fall. They have fueled some of the largest and most damaging fires in recent California history.

The National Weather Service said Riverside County could see winds of 15 to 25 mph (24 to 40 kph) through Tuesday with gusts up to 40 miles per hour (64 kph). The weather service issued a red flag warning of extreme fire danger through Tuesday afternoon for parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

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