More than 10,000 people have been evacuated in Southern California, where firefighters are battling several major wildfires. Mike OSullivan reports that the flames, driven by gusting winds, have destroyed hundreds of homes.
A fire that started Friday in the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar had grown to 2,600 hectares by mid-day Saturday, when the blaze was just 10 percent contained. That fire destroyed at least 500 mobile homes as it leveled large parts of one neighborhood.
Northwest of Los Angeles, more than 100 homes were lost near Santa Barbara in a fire that started Thursday and was 40 percent contained by Saturday. Authorities say as many as 30 structures were destroyed in another fire in nearby Orange and Riverside counties.
The wildfires are being driven by gusty winds from the desert called Santa Anas, which have reached 120 kilometers per hour in some places.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the Sylmar fire is the worst that his city has seen in a decade. He urged residents to be careful.
"People really need to understand that because of these winds, these fires can be on you in a moments notice," said Villaraigosa.
He said electrical lines were down in places, and he asked people to conserve power to avoid possible blackouts. Traffic was snarled as authorities closed several major highways near Los Angeles, including Interstate 5, which links Southern and Northern California.
Los Angeles Fire Department deputy chief Mario Rueda says firefighters have been battling the flames in two ways.
"Its always a strategy of both offensive and defensive," said Rueda. "In this case, the defensive part is putting firefighters directly ahead of those structures, directly ahead of that flaming front."
He says the offensive strategy involves the use of bulldozers to clear brush from the path of the fire, and aircraft to drop flame retardant from the sky.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fires, but say the Santa Ana winds that typically come at this time of the year make the blazes hard to control, once they have started.