Strong winds in southern California have whipped up huge and growing wildfires that have forced hundreds of people from their homes.

The brush fires have so far burned nearly 3,000 hectares of land in the San Fernando Valley, about 50 kilometers north of downtown Los Angeles. Huge clouds of smoke covered the area Thursday as firefighters battled to bring the flames under control.

The fires have destroyed one home and several other structures. Authorities have reopened a freeway shut down late Wednesday but have ordered residents of six local communities to evacuate.

Wildfires occur in southern California almost every year around this time, sparked by strong winds, high temperatures and a seasonal lack of rain.

Authorities had warned the fire danger would be high this year due to unusually thick brush, caused by heavy rains last winter.

Some information for this report provided by AP.