Two massive wildfires raged in tinder-dry California hills and canyons Sunday, leaving thousands of homes evacuated and authorities to investigate a burned body found in a neighborhood swept by flames, AP reports.
The brush fire raging in the Santa Clarita Valley grew to more than 22,000 acres overnight as firefighters struggle to gain control of the wildfire amid a brutal heat wave, the LA Times reports.
The blaze, first reported at 2 p.m. Friday, grew to nearly 5,500 acres by Saturday morning, then exploded by late evening as the winds began to shift, pushing flames closer to homes in a Santa Clarita neighborhood that abuts the Angeles National Forest, fire officials said.
So far, 18 structures have been destroyed and another damaged in the Bear Divide and Sand Canyon areas, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. One fatality has been reported, but it is not yet clear if it is fire-related.
Assisted by fixed-wing aircraft and water-dropping helicopters, more than 1,600 firefighters continue to battle to get ahead of the blaze. But the fire remains only 10% contained.
Decades without a major fire and years of drought left the valley primed for a fast-moving fire that was fueled by “excessive heat, low humidity, extreme dry fuels that have not burned for several decades,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said during a news conference Saturday.
“Five years ago, if we had a similar fire, we would have probably caught [it] at the ridge,” Los Angeles County Fire Department chief Daryl L. Osby said during the news conference.
A woman said her husband had seen a burned horse carcass during his morning walk and a man described the scene as looking like Armageddon.
Nearby, Ascension Perez Salorio paced the restaurant, hoping for answers. He turned to a woman and asked, “Did my home burn down?”
Since evacuating his home on Little Tujunga Canyon Road late Friday, Salorio said he hasn’t gotten any updates.
“All we can do now,” he said, “is wait.”