Police in the western U.S. state of California say a man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire during a Christmas Eve party, causing a fire and killing three people.

Authorities say three others were wounded, including an eight-year-old girl.

Authorities are searching for the gunman who they say burst into a home near Los Angeles just before midnight on Wednesday.

A police official, Lieutenant Pat Buchanan, says when officers arrived, the home was engulfed in flames and gunshots could still be heard coming from inside the home.

Police say it is not clear if the three victims died as a result of the gunshots or the fire.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.