Fast-moving wildfire in California forces residents to evacuate

A burning house damaged by the Clayton Fire is seen near Lower Lake in California Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Los Angeles, United States Aug 17, 2016, 01.15 AM (IST)

A wildfire broke out on Tuesday in a Southern California mountain pass and quickly grew to 6,500 acres (2,630 hectares), prompting the closure of part of the main freeway between the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas, officials said.

The so-called Bluecut Fire erupted in heavy brush just west of Interstate 15 between the towns of Crestline and Hesperia, about 100 miles (160 km) east of Los Angeles, closing a section of that freeway and forcing a number of local residents to evacuate, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.gov.

"It is a very fast-moving fire, it has wind behind it," said US Forest Service spokeswoman Lyn Sieliet.

The blaze, whose cause is under investigation, was the latest in a series of wildfires that have blackened nearly 300,000 acres (121,400 hectares) of the drought-parched US West.

Sieliet said the Bluecut Fire, despite efforts by 700 firefighters to control it, had damaged structures in the Cajon Pass. She could not immediately say how many.

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were going door-to-door in the community of Wrightwood and nearby areas to tell residents to evacuate, said sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. It was not immediately clear how many homes were evacuated.

The eruption of the Bluecut Fire came as crews more than 600 miles (970 km) to the northwest began to make headway on Tuesday against a Northern California wildfire that has destroyed more than 175 homes and businesses.

The so-called Clayton Fire was 20 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It has charred more than 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) in and around the community of Lower Lake, forcing hundreds of people to flee.

Authorities on Monday arrested 40-year-old Damin Pashilk on suspicion of setting that blaze and numerous others in the area over the past year. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

The fire, which threatens some 1,500 structures, was driven by fierce winds after sparking on Saturday evening. There were no reports of casualties.

On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency for the Clayton fire and another in Central California, the so-called Chimney fire, allowing local officials to get help from agencies statewide.

The Chimney Fire was just 10 percent contained by Tuesday afternoon after scorching 6,400 acres (2,590 hectares) since erupting on Saturday. It has destroyed 12 structures and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

(Reuters)

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