Crews try to tame California wildfire as heat wave arrives

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Noah Berger

A Los Angeles County firefighter extinguishes hot spots at a scorched residence while battling the Lake Fire in the Angeles National Forest, Calif., north of Santa Clarita on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Light winds and scattered thundershowers early Thursday helped calm the flames of a huge wildfire that prompted evacuations north of Los Angeles, and firefighters hoped to rein in the blaze before temperatures spike later in the day. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

LOS ANGELES – Crews scrambled to protect homes from a huge wildfire that prompted evacuations north of Los Angeles, and officials warned the blaze could flare up again Thursday as a blistering heat wave descended on California.

The fire exploded in size within hours after it broke out in dense forest on Wednesday afternoon, sending up a towering plume visible for hundreds of miles around.

Flames raced across ridges and steep slopes, including in some areas that had not burned since 1968, fire officials said. By Thursday night, the blaze still threatened more than 5,400 homes and had charged through 17 square miles (44.5 square kilometers) of brush and forest land.

The blaze was only 5% contained.

Light winds and scattered thundershowers early in the day helped firefighters tame the flames somewhat but Friday's forecast called for hot, dry weather with “near critical” fire conditions because of possible gusty winds, a fire update said Thursday night.

“This will be a major fire for several days,” said Chief Robert Garcia with the U.S. Forest Service.

About 100 rural homes were evacuated in the Lake Hughes area of the Angeles National Forest, some 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of downtown Los Angeles.

Preliminary damage assessments found that at least three structures burned, but authorities warned the toll would likely be higher.