An intentionally set wildfire grew perilously close to homes in Southern California on Thursday as evacuation orders expanded to more than 20,000 residents, though some homeowners stayed behind to fend off the flames themselves.
Firefighters fought a desperate battle to stop the Holy Fire from reaching homes as the blaze surged through the Cleveland National Forest above the city of Lake Elsinore and its surrounding communities, about 70 miles (113 km) southeast of Los Angeles. They were trying to keep the flames from devouring neighborhoods and taking lives, as gigantic fires still burning in Northern California have done.
Fire crews worked in 100-plus-degree (38 Celsius) heat. Aircraft dumped bright pink lines of fire retardant to wall off the fire from homes. The 16-square-mile (41-square-kilometer) blaze was only 5 percent contained.
Winds gusting to nearly 20 mph (32 kph) at times drove the fire through dense chaparral on the foothill slopes and along ridgetops, sending up an enormous column of smoke that smeared the sky for miles around.
The fire is named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it erupted Monday and burned a dozen cabins.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties because the fire threatened thousands of homes. The proclamation directs state agencies to provide help to local governments.