Mass evacuations as firefighters struggle with California fire

  • 19/07/2015

Crews have worked through the night to evacuate hundreds of campers, including children, with firefighters battling to contain a fast-moving brush fire near a major California highway.

At least 1000 firefighters were dispatched to battle the blaze, San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) said on Twitter.

The agency warned of "active night time burning conditions" and said that evacuations were underway.

The LA County Sheriff's Department tweeted that 130 children with special needs had been evacuated from the Lion's Camp mountain and that officials were preparing to return to escort another 170.

It said earlier that some 300 campers were loaded on to buses and removed from a mountain.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department also said on Twitter that 90 girl scouts were evacuated from a nearby campground.

A total of six campgrounds were cleared, and the LA County Sheriff said an additional five would be evacuated throughout the morning.

The fire broke out Friday near the I-15 freeway northeast of Los Angeles, with flames leaping across the multiple-lane highway, igniting vehicles and forcing drivers to abandon burning cars.

Some 30 vehicles were destroyed or damaged and the main freeway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas was forced to close, though two southbound lanes were later reopened, according to SBNF.

The fire also burned at least five nearby houses, and was imminently threatening at least 50 other homes in the area.

The fire department said the blaze had grown to 1,400 hectares though it was unclear if anyone was hurt.

Dramatic images showed cars burning on the road, while the blaze roared in the thick brush along the main artery after nightfall, illuminating the night sky.

Wildfires are a fact of life in southern California, but have been exacerbated by tinder dry conditions as the western US state is gripped by a fourth year of record drought.