Wildfire threatens 10,000 homes near LA

  • 26/07/2016
An American flag flies above wreckage at a residence leveled by the Erskine Fire in South Lake, California (AAP)
An American flag flies above wreckage at a residence leveled by the Erskine Fire in South Lake, California (AAP)

A California wildfire that has destroyed more than a dozen homes and left one man dead is forcing thousands of residents to flee as flames rage for a fourth day through drought-parched canyons and foothills north of Los Angeles.

The so-called Sand Fire has charred at least 130 square km around the rugged northwestern fringes of the Angeles National Forest since it broke out on Friday (local time), and remained just 10 percent contained on Monday, authorities said.

At least 18 dwellings burned over the weekend, and the body of one man was found on the weekend in a burned-out car parked in the driveway of a home.

Plans to begin allowing some displaced residents to return to their communities were cancelled late on Sunday (local time) after a dangerous shift in the winds.

By Monday morning (local time) evacuation orders had been expanded to 10,000 homes, or roughly 20,000 people, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Joey Marron said, adding that about 200 commercial buildings were also in harm's way.

Authorities put the number of people evacuated at 1500.

The blaze was threatening a cluster of small communities near Santa Clarita, about 65km north of Los Angeles, as it cast a pall of smoke and soot over a wide area of the region. Much of the Los Angeles basin was dusted with a thin layer of fine white ash from the fire over the weekend.

Fed by dense scrub desiccated during five years of drought, flames were initially stoked by triple-digit heat and extremely low humidity. Slightly cooler, moister conditions and diminished winds were expected to help firefighters on Monday (local time).

Nearly 3000 firefighters were battling to contain the blaze, the cause of which was under investigation.

About 500km to the northwest, a separate large fire was burning in a coastal area of Monterey County, prompting authorities to widen evacuation orders to several communities there on Sunday (local time), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.