Hundreds evacuate as California wildfire rushes toward houses
Blaze, 20% contained, threatens 2,000 structures north of L.A.
PALMDALE, Calif. — A huge wildfire in the high desert north of Los Angeles jumped an aqueduct on Friday, rushing toward hundreds of houses as firefighters also tried to keep flames from damaging power lines that bring electricity to Southern California.
About 2,000 structures were threatened and 300 homes were evacuated, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Winds apparently carried embers across the wide concrete channel, with flames rapidly spreading to backyard fences at the edge of Palmdale. Plumes of smoke streamed across the city of 139,000 as a predicted afternoon increase in winds finally arrived.
Helicopters dipped buckets into the aqueduct to make rapid water drops. A giant Boeing 747 supertanker arrived over Palmdale to join the battle.
“As you see, we are deploying everything that we’ve got,” Schwarzenegger said.
Sustained winds of 10 to 20 mph were report- A jumbo jet tanker drops fire retardant in Palmdale, Calif., to protect microwave towers Friday. Officials said that the fire threatened several transmission lines but that customers would not be affected. ed, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Matt Levesque.
Most of the homes in the area, however, are of recent construction with fire-resistant roofs, stucco walls and boxed eaves and landscaped with fire-resistant vegetation, he said. Evacuations were not ordered but were recommended.
Temperatures neared 100 degrees with single-digit relative humidity, and the National Weather Service predicted gusts up to 50 mph Friday night. The fire had burned more than 20 square miles since erupting Thursday afternoon and was 20 percent contained, Schwarzenegger said.
Elsewhere in the battle, aircraft bombarded flames on ridges above the Antelope Valley on the southern edge of the Mojave Desert, while 750 firefighters working in high heat sought to outflank the blaze.
“We want to pinch it off and call it done,” Los Angeles County fire Capt. Andrew Olvera said.
The blaze spread rapidly after breaking out Thursday, triggering overnight evacuations of about 2,000 homes in rural areas and down to the western side of Palmdale.
One house and three mobile homes were destroyed, another house had roof damage, and other outbuildings and garages were lost in the horse country region, authorities said.
Southern California Edison said the fire threatened five high-voltage transmission lines, but the California grid operator had put additional generation resources online, and customers were not expected to be affected if the utility lost those lines.